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Global Inequality

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GLOBAL INEQUALITY
Global inequalities among nations are the outcome of centuries of nations’ struggle over global supremacy, forced circumstances and mismanaged priorities by the nations themselves and world as a whole. Historically global inequality refers to the three-world model and includes "World System Theory."The three-world model assumes that the entire world was once agrarian. Most of the worlds’ work involved farming, which was the most advanced type of economic activity.
Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Europe began the transition to an industrial economy. The countries of Western Europe adopted the economic policy of capitalism and coupled it with factory technology. These (and their offspring: United States, Canada, and Australia, principally) became the wealthy countries of the world and are referred as the first world countries.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Russia adopted the socialist economic model and began to industrialize. However, it was a century and a half behind Western civilization, and socialism did not turn out to be effective in a world that was geared toward capitalism. The countries that followed this model (U.S.S.R,China, Cuba, etc.) became the Second World Countries.
Countries that were unaffected by the two great revolutions (Industrial Revolution in the West and Communist Revolution in the East) are today's Third World Countries, the poorest countries in the world.
World System Theory postulates that the vast majority of Third World Countries will never become equal to the more economically advanced countries because of world policies put into effect first by GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs), The World Bank, and the International Monetary Foundation.
Gradually, the G7 took charge of world monetary and trade issues. The G7 refers to the money managers of the seven wealthiest nations (U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan). Recently, the G7 was broadened to include six rapidly developing economies (like South Korea), then widened again to the G20, which is where it now stands. No sub-Saharan African countries are included in the G20, nor are most Asian or South American countries. [1]

Global inequality in its current form is a product of various subsets such as inequality in military, gender and natural resources.
Military inequality means that the balance of power is affected. This inequality is particularly dangerous, as other countries have no choice but to match the military might of superpowers. A military threat is seen as an existential crisis and resources which would otherwise have been used for development purposes are diverted towards a never ending weapon race. The world therefore not only becomes a more dangerous place but also a poorer one when countries indulge heavily in defense spending. A classic example is the India- Pakistan scenario where the economically weaker country (Pakistan) has compromised on its people’s social welfare at the expense of maintaining balance of power in the region. Similarly, the USA and Israel have traditional and nuclear stock pile of weapons but they are putting embargos on countries such as Iran and Pakistan who have no choice but to invest in military spending in order to maintain minimum deterrence levels.
Another feature of global inequality is the inequality in gender in different countries. This is because culture and religion guide these nations. It is especially true for third world countries of Asia and Africa. In Pakistan, women are highly discriminated. Majority of them are appointed in low paid jobs. Parents do not allow their daughters to pursue education and girls get married in their early teens. This is especially the case in rural areas of Pakistan, where men are considered superior over women. In third world countries of Africa, women are highly looked down upon. When an African girl is around nine she has to go through circumcision. Circumcision ranges from a simple pricking of the private area to cutting off the exterior portions of the female genitalia. The cuts are made with a knife, razor, piece of glass, or possibly a piece of a tin can. According to African culture, a circumcised woman is more attractive and will fetch a higher dowry for the family when she is married. This gender inequality is thus a reflection of cultural enforcement [2].

Natural resources also have a vital contribution in global inequality. In an ideal world these scarce resources could be allocated equitably to those most in need. Countries endowed by nature can take advantage of their power by monopolizing the resource and using it to gain economic as well as political supremacy over nations. Countries having monopoly of natural resources control the prices through cartelization. For instance, South Africa has a monopoly in diamonds while the Arab world is flooded with oil. In fact oil has been used as a weapon, albeit ineffectively, in the 1967 Arab-Israel war when the Arab world stopped its exports to USA and Britain as it supported Israel [3]. Even the US invasion of Iraq was an effort to control ‘black gold’ wrapped in disguise of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) pursuit. However, if free trade is allowed to flourish, such inequality can also be used as leverage for poorer nations to attain favorable terms of trade. For example Pakistan and Bangladesh can capitalize to a much greater extent on their cotton produce if they endeavor to achieve free trade agreements with European Union and other western powers.

Some non-economic aspects of global inequality include inequalities in sectors such as health, education and labor. It has been reported that Pakistan’s total educational budget is less than the total budget of Singapore’s single university! Apart from this, Pakistan is one of eight countries worldwide that spend less than 2% of GDP on education [4]. There is no doubt that third world countries are far behind the developed countries of the world in the education sector. This is because they do not have enough finance to invest in the education sector as oppose to the developed countries of the world such as U.K and USA. As a result, these first world countries produce better quality citizens. This means they have a productive workforce which in turn contributes to their gross domestic product (GDP) and balance of payment.

Perhaps inequality seems most pronounced when one sees a vast gulf between the west and places like Africa in basic amenities like health. For instance, in Africa there is a lack of hospitals, medicine and healthcare professionals. The only substitute is open air clinics with unhygienic conditions. Resultantly, epidemics are common and widespread diseases like aids and hepatitis are far from contained. While at one end of the world even basic healthcare is a luxury, on the other hand in western countries it can be seen that people have now started to spend on treatments like hair transplants ,plastic surgery and laser treatments as basic healthcare is insured by government and employers. This vast difference in healthcare standard directly affects the quantity and quality of life. According to United Nations and World Health Organization statistics, countries which spend the highest percentage of their GDP on healthcare have on an average a longer life span by 20 years than the countries spending the lowest percentage of their GDP on healthcare [5,6].

Not only this, but there is a vast disparity between labor force of the developed countries and of the third world countries. For instance, in poor countries laborers are highly exploited. There is a high frequency of child labor and workers are paid very little. According to the human development report 2005, 2.5 billion people are living on less than $2 a day- 40% of the worlds’ population receive only 5 % of global income.

This growing inequality is not confined to the less developed economies but is rampant in economically powerful nations, such as USA, a country with the highest GNP. One in eight people in the USA live in poverty and for a developed country it has an usually low life expectancy level. But all is not gloom and doom. Many successful initiatives have bridged world wide gaps, such as through internet, everyone has equal access to information. Knowledge is no more a sacred treasure for imperialist powers. Trade has to some extent become more competitive through outsourcing, whereby every company can take advantage of the cheapest source of production available. However, much more needs to be accomplished to nip the growing sense of deprivation, disenfranchisement and anger before its effect give way to an all out war.

The United Nations can play a vital role by shedding its image of being a puppet of western nations. The age old Security Council’s compositions should be re-considered to provide representation of a wider range of countries, especially by increasing the permanent members. Other institutions such as World trade organization (WTO) need to curb unfair trade restrictions especially against the developing nations. But perhaps, the only means to attain a just world is sustainable peace. Word count: 1,450
REFERENCES
[1] http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100307004400AApU3Vf [2] http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art19720.asp
[3] http://dawn.com/2012/02/27/using-oil-as-a-strategic-weapon/
[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/629/629/7247481.stm
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jun/30/healthcare-spending-world-country
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

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