Nigeria is atop the list of countries in which the gap between the rich and the poor has worsened, a global aid agency, Oxfam, has said. The agency said this on Tuesday as it launched an index spotlighting those nations doing least to bridge the divide.

The Oxfam’s commitment to reducing inequality index said Ghana, another African country, had experienced impressive economic growth over the past 20 years and seen a significant decline in poverty, adding that poverty levels had more than halved between 1992 and 2013. “However, income inequality has been growing steadily for a number of years and is a serious threat to poverty reduction efforts,” it added.

According to Oxfam, extreme inequality reduces economic growth, threatens women’s rights, and worsens health and other outcomes, adding that tackling inequality does not depend on a country’s wealth, but on political will. It said, “Nigeria has the unenviable distinction of being at the bottom of the index for the second year in a row. Its social spending (on health, education and social protection) is shamefully low, which is reflected in very poor social outcomes for its citizens.

“One in 10 children in Nigeria does not reach their fifth birthday, and more than 10 million children do not go to school.  Sixty per cent of these are girls. The minimum wage has not increased since 2011 and social spending has stagnated.”

South Korea, Georgia and Indonesia were among countries praised for trying to reduce inequality, through policies on social spending, tax and labour rights. Oxfam said inequality had reached crisis levels, with the richest one per cent of the global population nabbing four fifths of wealth created between mid-2016 and mid-2017, while the poorest half saw no increase in wealth.

The index of 157 countries is being released as finance ministers and central bank chiefs gather in Bali, Indonesia for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings. Singapore, one of the world’s richest countries, came in the bottom 10, partly because of practices which facilitate tax dodging, Oxfam said. The city state, which has no universal minimum wage, also did poorly on labour rights.

South Korea, 56 on the list, was praised for bumping its minimum wage up by 16.4 per cent last year; and Georgia (49), for boosting education spending by nearly six per cent – more than any other country.

Denmark’s track record on progressive taxation, social spending and worker protections earned it the top spot, but Oxfam warned that recent administrations had eroded good policies and inequality had risen. China (81) ranked way ahead of India (147), devoting more than twice as much of its budget to health and almost four times as much to welfare spending, the agency said.

Oxfam warned that world leaders risked failing on their pledge to reduce inequality by 2030 and urged them to develop plans to close the gap which should be funded by progressive taxation and clamping down on tax dodging.

The Oxfam boss, Winnie Byanyima, said, “We see children dying from preventable diseases because of a lack of health care funding while rich corporations and individuals dodge billions of Dollars in tax.

“Governments often tell us they are committed to fighting poverty and inequality – this index shows whether their actions live up to their promises.”

The index, which included an indicator on violence against women, said less than half of the countries had adequate laws on sexual harassment and rape.







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