Friday, September 04, 2015

Home-owner? Think again

Nearly a million homeowners have no way of paying off their mortgages because they opted for interest-only loans, according to CitizensAdvice. The new figure is much higher than previous estimates. 934,000 owners did not have a plan for how to pay back the money at the end of the mortgage term. 432,000 have not even thought about the issue.

It warned that time was running out for some to organise their finances. They faced having to sell their homes or even have the property repossessed if they were unable to find other funds, the charity said. Millions of buyers were sold interest-only mortgages before rules were tightened up three years ago. Without the need to pay back some of the loan each month on top of the interest, they could borrow more to buy their homes.

"People buy a home for stability, but interest-only mortgages have forced many into a financial black hole," says the charity's chief executive, Gillian Guy.

The first sizeable wave of repayment problems is expected to appear in 2017-18, when endowment mortgages sold in the 1990s reach their peak period of maturing. A decade later, in 2027-28, the surge in interest-only mortgages taken out from the early 2000s reaches a high point. And the final peak comes in 2032 when the wild lending to people who could barely afford the interest, just before the credit crunch, has to be dealt with.

Private Eye and the SPGB


Date of Issue: 3 September 2015

SUBJECT: Reply to ‘HP Sauce’ Socialist Party item, Private Eye (No. 1400)

No, we do not have ulterior motives. We stood against Jeremy Corbyn at the General Election when he wasn’t standing for Labour Leader on the same basis that we oppose him now: his policies rely on the continued existence of capitalism, and therefore the exploitation of the working class to make profits. We stand, as you rightly observed, for the abolition of the wages system all together.

To that end, over the years, our members have donated money and time to the party. In 1951 we bought premises that now attract a considerable paper value (and which we have no plans to sell). We do not derive any income from our premises, and indeed they cost us money in taxation. In a property society we require funds and resources to make our case for the abolition of property society.

[Max Hess, Media Dept, SPGB]

The Private Eye Article

"IN THE hysteria provoked by the supposed far-left infiltration of the eternal Labour leadership contest, one sect of hardline pamphlet-pushers is staying resolutely on its street corner.
The 300-strong Socialist Party of Great Britain has launched a ferocious media offensive against Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of being a capitalist shill keen to implement a "staid, unradical government" and Photoshopping his head on to ajar of Marmite "rich in BS policies - 100 percent capitalism".
Despite the revolutionaries' complaints that the Tory press's bogeyman is "just Harold Wilson warmed up", could the Clapham-based outfit have ulterior motives? Despite the party pushing for the abolition of banks and money, London's property boom saw the value of its HQ almost double between 2013 and 2014 to £900,000 - with cash reserves taking its total wealth to just under £ 1.3m. Its media spokesman protests: "We are not a charity, we are not giving it away to the poor, we are using it to propagate the case for socialism."
God forbid a politician comes along who wants to do something about the housing crisis and unearned income..."

Thursday, September 03, 2015

America's extreme poverty

The World Bank and other global institutions use a very specific measure to record global poverty rates. They gather data designed to record the number of people in a country who live on less than $2 a day, and then use the information to make a “poverty headcount ratio”— the percentage of people in a country who live under this standard. In most recent data, Sierra Leone, for example, had a staggering 82.5% of its citizens living in poverty by this count. A new book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, explores the status of Americans who face this extreme level of poverty

According to the research by co-authors Kathryn J. Edin, and H. Luke Shaefer, the number of Americans living on $2 a day or less has “more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation.” 

1996 is an important marker, because that's the year the Clinton administration, working alongside Republicans in Congress, eliminated the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program, which provided a guaranteed safety net for the poor. In its place they created Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), a much more meager and temporary safety net. TANF isn't working.  According to $2.00 a Day, the welfare program reached more than 14.2 million Americans in 1994, but by 2014 only 3.8 million Americans were aided by TANF.

The money has gone to the very rich. That's is to say, all of the productivity gains have gone to the rich, as have most of the other gains of society. The end result is that society is more unequal, more stressful, and people are doing worse off compared to before. Nothing is going to change unless we get a more egalitarian society – socialism.

Abbott's Climate Change Denial

Coal is Australia’s second largest export and this year it is forecast to generate 346 billion Australian dollars (US$253 billion) in foreign sales Australia exports 80 percent of the coal it mines and currently meets three-quarters of the country’s electricity needs from burning coal.

Australia, the driest inhabited continent, is on an average likely to experience more global warming than the rest of the world. Increasing drought, floods, heatwaves and bush-fires are already impacting on the country’s environment and economy, further disadvantaging Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the most vulnerable in remote and island communities.
“The Coconut Islands in the Torres Strait are under threat from sea level rise. [For Indigenous people], their culture and heritage are tied to the island and they would have nowhere to go. We are also seeing spikes in heat related deaths,” says Kellie Caught, climate change national manager for the World Wildlife Fund-Australia. 

Community sector organisations are especially concerned that people experiencing poverty and inequality will be hardest hit by sea level rise inundating low-lying coastal areas, reducing crop yields and forcing migration of millions of people; and they would be the least able to adapt.
“Australia’s target does not reflect any recognition that the impacts are already being felt by our Indigenous people and Pacific Island neighbours nor the sense of urgency that grips so many of these communities,” says Negaya Chorley, head of advocacy at Caritas Australia, an international aid and development agency of the Catholic Church. “Given this denialism, our government is in no way ready or prepared to take in and support people and whole communities that will be forced to migrate due to the impacts of climate change.”

Deaths from heatwaves are projected to double over the next 40 years in Australian cities and sea levels are projected to continue to rise through the 21st century at a rate faster than over the past four decades, according to a recent report by the independent organisation Climate Council.

“Our government has gone to extreme lengths to repeal or undermine climate and clean energy policy,” Tom Swann, a researcher with the Canberra-based The Australia Institute, told IPS. “If Australia succeeds in its plans to double its exports in the next 10 years, the world loses in its plans to tackle climate change. More coal mines mean lower coal prices, less renewable energy and more climate impacts. Indeed, meeting the two-degrees centigrade target, to which Australia has signed up, means 95 percent of Australia’s coal must stay in the ground, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he can think of ‘few things more damaging to our future’.”

“We need new measures to shift from dirty coal to renewable energy, including a commitment from all parties to at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. [Australia set a target to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, equivalent to a 19 percent cut on 2000 levels] ” Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Chief Executive Officer Cassandra Goldie told IPS.

WWF’’s Caught says, “The Australian Government’s pollution reduction target is woefully inadequate and not consistent with limiting warming below two degrees centigrade. If all countries matched Australia’s targets the world would be on track for a 3-4 degree centigrade warming. The target puts Australia at the back of the pack on international action.”

No Comment


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Land Makes Profits

  “Landlords’ right has its origin in robbery. The landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for the natural produce of the earth.” - Adam Smith

“Property ownership and property rights are the fundamental of a free market.”George Eustice, junior agriculture minister. 

Land in Britain has become the safest investment for those with a few spare millions to offload. Prices are up by a staggering 277% in a decade, according to Savills market survey of UK agricultural land 2015. Prime London property has risen by a mere 127% in the same period. Agriculture is the last great subsidised industry. It gets several billion pounds annually from taxpayers through the European Union’s common agricultural policy. For investors, it is recession-proof. Regardless of any downturn in the world economy the subsidy cheques keep rolling in. Furthermore, agricultural land also offers generous tax breaks. It is exempt from inheritance tax after two years if it is actively farmed. And additional relief allows the sale of a farming asset to be rolled over into a new business or acquisition. Capital gains tax is thus deferred until the sale of the asset. By any reckoning, this amounts to a substantial, hidden state subsidy. “What does the state get out of it?” asks George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers’ Association. “Not much … for those with a lot of cash, made through capital gains elsewhere, land provides the complete tax solution … run it as a ‘sham’ farming operation [run] by another individual on a short-term basis, you take no risk. And when you pass away there’s all this tax relief.”

Around 150,000 acres of agricultural land now comes on to the market in England annually, four-fifths less than in the 1970s – hence its rapid appreciation. Land, in effect, is being rationed through a variety of wheezes – not least in an unregistered “shadow” trading market. The losers are the vast majority of people aspiring to become homeowners, or more likely tenants, in a market that handsomely rewards a few at the expense of the many.

Earlier this year, a south Lincolnshire local Conservative councillor exasperated by the rocketing price of development land threw political caution to the wind. Roger Gambba-Jones railed: “The major cause of our housing crisis is the price of the land. The owner of a field can increase its agricultural value a hundred-fold [if he sells] for commercial development and 200 times for residential.” Little wonder that despite allocating sites for housing in a local plan, authorities like his own – South Holland district council – were powerless when potential building land remained undeveloped because, says Gambba-Jones, “the owner is holding out for the top dollar”.

Currently, agricultural land is going for £10,000, or more, per acre. But on some estimates, land with planning permission for development can be worth 250 times more than farmland. With prices for building land heading into the valuation stratosphere, a shadow market has emerged. The gain in value from planning permission encourages a high level of land trading, rather than development – primarily for housing – resulting eventually in windfalls for the landowner rather than for the local community.

A housing review commission chaired by the former chief executive of Birmingham city council (and former BBC chairman) Sir Michael Lyons warned that an artificial scarcity of land was distorting the housing market, limiting building and “incentivising the acquisition and trading of land”. The commission spoke of six firms of land agents alone holding strategic land banks of 23,000 acres – enough for up to 400,000 homes at current building densities. It expressed particular concern that “non-developers” – farmers, landowners, institutions – were holding on to land either under an option or with planning permission. Although they had no intention of currently building, according to Lyons they “may be motivated by speculating on future land values”.

“Options” are a familiar tool in the arcane development world. They involve a legal agreement in which, say, a volume builder reserves land from an owner and buys at a later date. This land is not available to others who might want to build more immediately.

We need to know the scale of this activity if we are to begin addressing the pressing need for more housing. Perhaps this could be achieved by making it a legal requirement to register land option agreements with the Land Registry, bringing transparency to this unquantifiable shadow market. Ninety years after the registry was tasked with detailing the ownership of all land in England and Wales, around 15% remains unregistered. Full registration was scheduled for 2011. Remarkably, there is no compulsion. The writer and campaigner Kevin Cahill has noted that that failure reflects the way the registry was constructed “by lawyers on behalf of landowners designed to conceal ownership, not reveal it”.

Stop the waste - End capitalism

If the amount of food wasted around the world were reduced by just 25% there would be enough food to feed all the people who are malnourished, according to the UN. Reducing food wastage would ease the burden on resources as the world attempts to meet future demand.

Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food, about a third of all that is produced, is wasted, including about 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat. Meanwhile, 795 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition.

In developed countries, consumers and retailers throw away between 30% and 40% of all food purchased, whereas in poorer countries only 5% to 16% of food is thrown away. According to a 2011 report, in Europe and North America each person wasted 95-115kg of otherwise edible food annually, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa and south and south-east Asia the equivalent waste was just 6-11kg.

“In the developing world, food waste is virtually nonexistent,” says Robert van Otterdijk, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Save Food programme. “Food waste is happening in countries where people can afford to throw away food. One statistic is that the amount of food wasted by consumers in industrialised countries [222m tonnes a year] is almost the same as the total net food production of sub-Saharan Africa [230m tonnes].

Food loss, on the other hand, are really rampant in developing countries because of the underdeveloped conditions they have, from management of production to transportation and distribution.

The environmental impact of food loss and waste is high. The carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2, meaning that if food waste were a country it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. About 1.4bn hectares, or close to 30% of available agricultural land, is used to grow or farm food that is subsequently wasted. And more surface and groundwater, or “blue water”, is used to produce wasted food around the globe than is used for agriculture by any single country, including India and China.

Van Otterdijk explains “Production of food is one of the biggest production sectors in the world, and if one-third of all this is just produced in vain you can imagine what a huge impact this has on the natural resources – on land, water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions.”

In the UK, 15m tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year. British consumers throw away 4.2m tonnes of edible food each year, equivalent in weight to 86 QE2s. This means that 11.7% of all food purchased is avoidably wasted.

The ironic thing is that even if all this extra food is available through the end of food waste at both the consumption and production ends will not benefit those in poverty since they still won’t be able to afford to buy it. “Can’t Pay, Don’t Get.” That’s the way the capitalist market system works. That is the way to-day’s world is run. Can you imagine a world truly free from poverty and hunger in all its forms everywhere? The World Socialist Movement can. There is an obvious solution: produce food directly for people to eat. But, first, the land and all the rest of the world’s resources, industrial as well as natural, will have to stop being the private property of rich individuals, multinational corporations and states and become the common heritage of all humanity. On this basis enough food could rapidly be produced to eliminate starvation immediately and, within a few years, to provide every man, woman and child on the planet with an adequate diet. And that is the sane rational and equitable society the WSM advocates and works towards.

Selling Guns

Despite last year’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the proliferation of conventional weapons continues to fuel military conflicts in several countries. Described as the first international, legally binding agreement to regulate the trade in conventional arms, the ATT was also aimed at preventing the illicit trade in weapons. The ATT has been signed by 130 states and ratified by 72. Some of the world’s key arms suppliers are either non-signatories, or have signed but not ratified the treaty. The United States, Ukraine and Israel have signed but not ratified while China and Russia abstained on the General Assembly vote on the treaty – and neither has signed it.

The Conference of States Parties (CSP1) to the ATT, held in Mexico last week, was the first meeting to assess the political credibility of the treaty.
Ray Acheson, Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS, “Arms transfers are still continuing – transfers that states know will contribute to death, injury, rape, displacement, and other forms of violence against human beings and our shared environment.”

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a senior fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University said full implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty requires action at the national, regional, and global levels… the most important measure of success will be whether the ATT helps reduce the human cost of armed violence. It’s simply too early to tell whether this will be the case.”

South Sudan spent almost 30 million dollars last year on machine guns, grenade launchers, and other weapons from China, along with Russian armoured vehicles and Israeli rifles and attack helicopters.

Under the Drug Influence

SOYMB blog if you care to search through its archives has frequently highlighted the nefarious activity of the pharmaceutical industry to protect and increase their profits. Therefore, the blog is not at all surprised by the recent revelation that drug manufacturers spend tens of millions of euros on lobbyists every year to ensure “privileged access” to decision-makers in Brussels.

The industry now spends at least €40m annually – 15 times more than NGOs and consumer groups, according to estimates – as representatives from “Big Pharma” enjoy a “staggering” number of meetings with European Commission departments and officials. A total of 40 pharmaceutical companies now appear on the EU’s transparency register – up from 23 in January 2012 with Bayer AG, GlaxoSmith-Kline and Novartis topping the list, having spent €6.5m on lobbying last year alone. But under-reporting and the continued avoidance by some firms of the EU’s voluntary transparency system mean that overall Big Pharma lobbying outlay is likely to be much higher

The report published today by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveals:

• The influential European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (Efpia) had over 50 meetings with the EU’s executive body during Jean-Claude Juncker’s first four and a half months as head of the Commission. Efpia, whose lobbying expenditure has gone from €50,000 in 2010 to more than €5m last year, plays a “covert and explicit” role in shaping the policy agenda, by sending lobbyists in a “personal capacity” to sit in on the Commission’s expert groups, the report said. Efpia representatives appear on official advisory bodies concerning alcohol and health, corporate responsibility, and implications of patent law in biotechnology and genetic engineering using high-level access to influence EU policy.

• The increasing use of “Pharmish” – a form of “doublespeak” creeping from industry documents into EU rhetoric, which manipulates public understanding.

• How patients are effectively asked to fund drug “research” costs twice, as many costs are already covered by taxpayer-funded universities  that often carry out research and development before drug companies buy the rights.

Among the EU laws targeted or shaped by the industry include rules around clinical trials’ data transparency, trade secrets, and the negotiation of the EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the report said. When Pfizer’s patent for Viagra expired in 2013, the cost of a pill reduced in price from £10 to around 85p. By 2019 other companies are predicted to lose more than £40bn of combined income from their “blockbuster drugs”, according to research firm GlobalData. Industry groups therefore want the bilateral EU-US TTIP trade agreement to ensure longer monopoly periods and higher medicine prices for any exclusive medicines.
 CEO warned any provisions on intellectual property rights in the proposed free trade treaty would allow US pharmaceutical companies to sue EU member states over measures to promote access to medicines, such as price controls and stricter parliamentary standards, through a system of international-state dispute settlements. “Such provisions will intensify health inequalities, compromise access to affordable medicines and hand more power and privilege to an increasingly unaccountable industry,” their report said.
Rachel Tansey, CEO researcher and author of the report, said: 
“The large-scale efforts of big pharmaceutical companies to mould EU policy to their own commercial benefit and their privileged access to EU decision-makers is deeply worrying.

“Pharmish” is the language used by big pharma when lobbying  officials is a form of Orwellian doublespeak according to consumer groups in the US and EU. David Hammerstein from TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue said many “pharmish” phrases, in which “access” is not accessible, “transparency” is not transparent and “affordability” is not affordable, can be found in industry lobbying materials. CEO said it is more worrying how much of the language has found its way into EU institutions’ rhetoric too. When the industry refers to “access to medicines” it doesn’t mean patients’ access, but its own ability to get “innovative medicines” on the market, the report said. Other examples included the “omnipresent” use of terms such as “innovation”, despite the research group claiming the industry develops little that is meaningfully “new”, “research-based industry”, despite most research taking place at universities funded by taxpayers, and “intellectual property rights”, which the CEO report said are, in fact, not rights, but monopoly privileges granted by governments, that drive up prices.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Why do socialists not take sides or willingly take part in wars?

Socialists recognise that wars are fought between workers of the participating belligerents. Lives are given and taken by the working class in the belief that they will be rewarded: financially, meritoriously, culturally, spiritually or otherwise-myths are created and anniversaries celebrated. People become forever removed from a society where they are needed most to care, provide and enjoy. We have been repeatedly led to the battlefield by policies and diplomacy that most people do not understand, they do not vote for, nor would they agree with if they could see their formulation.

If we agree that it is true, that wars are fought by the working class from one geographical area (a nation) against the working class of another area, then it is also true that it is nothing other than another form of exploitation by the capitalist class. War is another economic tool in the capitalists' unending assault on winning at short term gain and further capital growth. The working class are fooled into mobilisation with analogies of god-given principles, a myriad of unfounded racist beliefs, hatred and a lust for supremacy in one form or another.

As the UK public has seen with Afghanistan and Iraq, no amount of general protest (or even rioting for that matter) will have any effect on changing the social and political status-quo. By voting in a general election, we give-up our right to have any say on the social and political existence of our nation-state. By electing a parliament we are providing our consent to whatever government is formed to make decisions on our behalf, no matter what they are or whether they are in our best interests or not-this includes war.

The clever thing about capitalism is that no matter how many good intentions a new political leader may have, no matter how "socialist" her or his ideas may appear to be, the importance of there being a business-case remains the most important. The need for capitalist countries to trade internally and externally dictates what policies are enacted and distracts any good intentions to focus upon money.

No nation-state will ever exist that goes against the idea of profit and war is an important part of oiling capitalism's mechanism. Why let it continue? Why let successive governments literally get away with murder? We shouldn't accept another century of destruction, we should build a new century of cooperation based upon a genuine socialist system of society-one that has no need for profit but allows all people to meet their potential, no matter where they live, when they were born or what skin they have on. Socialists don't fight for capitalism, they argue for socialism and share the struggle to achieve a world free from the chains of profit.

Anti-capitalist Clangers


Solidarity Knows No Borders

Ten thousand Icelanders have offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes. After the Icelandic government announced last month that it would only accept 50 humanitarian refugees from Syria, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir encouraged fellow citizens to speak out in favour of those in need of asylum. In the space of 24 hours, well over 10,000 Icelanders – the country’s population is 300,000 – took to Facebook to offer up their homes and urge their government to do more. 

“I think people have had enough of seeing news stories from the Mediterranean and refugee camps of dying people and they want something done now", Bjorgvinsdottir told Icelandic public television RUV.

More than 12,000 people have responded to her Facebook group “Syria is calling” to sign an open letter to their welfare minister, Eygló Harðar. “Refugees are human resources, they have experience and skills,” the Icelandic letter reads. “Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.”

The open letter and offers of assistance from ordinary citizens reflects a shifting attitude towards refugees in some parts of Europe as this blog earlier reported
Over the weekend, German football fans held up signs at matches welcoming those fleeing persecution, and the German tabloid Bild, not renowned for its liberal attitudes towards immigration, has taken up the cause.
“We’ve had enough – enough of the deaths, the suffering and the persecution,” the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said.

Hiroshima, August 1945 (poem)

Sadly, the weekly poem by Richard Layton will be (hopefully) temporarily suspended. We will publish instead for the time being, once a week, poetry from the archives of the Socialist Standard.

From the Winter 1985-6 issue of the World Socialist

Hiroshima, August 1945

The following poem was written by a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain shortly after he heard the news of the bombing.

Like a blast from hell the atom bomb came,
And a city in ruins was hurled;
On wings of fear, it thundered its name,
Through a shocked and war torn world;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
Its first warning sign we see,
Garden of plenty, or desert of death;
What is this world to be?
The challenge is vital, and urgent the hour;
When this Capitalist era must pass,
And workers control this atomic power,
So misused by the ruling class;
This nuclear power from the atom was wrought,
It evolved in the womb of time,
Born of the labour of man's social thought,
Its baptism, Fire, blood and crime;
Dark is the future if our governments command
This scientific genie of might,
Secret diplomacy knows no remand,
From chaos and abysmal night;
The Capitalist powers are still planning our fate,
And with their lies seek to stifle our fears,
Turning worker against worker, in blind bonds of hate,
For their new orgy of blood sweat and tears;
A Socialist world, no other solution,
Presents itself to mankind;
The workers must strive for a world revolution,
And cast off those fetters that bind;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
For good or for ill must abide,
Garden of plenty or desert of death?
The workers themselves must decide.

Walter Atkinson

The Ice War Cometh?

Our Glasgow/Edinburgh branches' blog Socialist Courier has posted numerous times over the always developing situation in the Arctic Circle. 

Arctic ice has receded by 65 percent over the past four decades opening up access to natural resources and shipping routes.

Barack Obama is on a visit to Alaska where he will be no doubt re-asserting American influence on the region. At the GLACIER summit in Anchorage, the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience will be attended by Alaska natives and officials from the US and other Arctic countries, including Russia. GLACIER is hosted by the US Department of State, and is unrelated to the US chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The Americans have gone to great pains to remind everybody that this is not an Arctic Council meeting. Its overall effect is taking away emphasis from some of the international governing systems

Obama has repeatedly said that the world is not moving fast enough on climate change, but that it can still act to avoid lasting damage. "We're not acting fast enough," he said. "Even if we cannot reverse the damage we’ve already caused," Obama said, "we have the means ... to avoid irreparable harm.”
Yet he is very happy to risk irreparable damage to the near-pristine conditions of the Arctic environment by permitting Shell exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Environmentalist groups have denounced the decision. Obama has shrugged off the criticism, arguing that domestic oil production was vital to US jobs and energy independence.

Both Russia and NATO have held massive military drills in the Arctic earlier this year, deploying new hardware and forces in the region. Former US navy Admiral Gary Roughead suggests that in the race for energy resources Russia and US are polar (no pun intended) opposites.

“The military capabilities that are being developed are very powerful,” Rob Huebert of the Center for Military and Strategic Studies told RT, “and of course, are going to entirely change the security structure of the Arctic region." 

Canada’s foreign minister said earlier that Canada is concerned with Russia's building up its military capacity in the Arctic, and therefore it’s ready to defend its interests militarily. But so have the Norwegians been beefing up their military. Rob Huebert explains a wider picture:
“ What you are starting to see is not so much a fight for the Arctic, but recognition of the centrality of the Arctic for the strategic balances of the major powers. In other words, it is not about fighting about oil and gas, or the fish resources, or the melting ice cap, but it is more of a reflection of the reality that for the Russians their major nuclear deterrent has to be Arctic-based. I mean the Murmansk bases are what serve their submarine forces. That of course is creating a response from the NATO countries. What you are seeing - and this is what confounds a lot of observers - is that you are really seeing a buildup of military capabilities, because of the deteriorating relationship between the West and Russia.  Because of the geography, the Arctic immediately becomes involved.” 
In other words another Cold War (no pun intended)

The US has also been expressing concerns about the build-up of a Chinese presence in the region. The Chinese have been investing in the Arctic; they have been making it clear that they planned to be in their terms a “near Arctic power”. Since the Russians are there, since the Americans are there it only makes sense from a Chinese perspective that they will be there.

The Chinese Capitalist "Refugee"

 China’s wobbly response to the bursting of its stock market bubble and the mystery over the true health of the country’s economy continue to spook investors, large and small. China’s wealthiest people know exactly what to do in these bewildering times: get some of their money out. With uncertainty rising at home, China’s rich have started looking elsewhere to store their wealth.
“The focus of China’s high net worth families has shifted from making as much money as you can to protecting your wealth,” said Shang Dai, chief executive of Kuafu Properties, a New York-based developer that draws funds from Chinese investors.

60 per cent of wealthy Chinese people surveyed in July said they planned to increase their overseas holdings in the coming two years. Residential property was the most popular future investment, followed by fixed-income securities, commercial property, trust products and life insurance policies. The survey found that 47 per cent of so-called high net worth individuals had earmarked more than 30 per cent of their assets for investment overseas.
The US was the preferred destination for 42 per cent of respondents. Next in line were Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and the UK.

Another trigger for foreign investment is an effort by wealthy Chinese to get foreign citizenship. The survey found that almost a third of respondents bought overseas assets as part of schemes to apply for local passports or permanent residency.

California's Hidden Poor

More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the “hidden poor” are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.
"Many of our older adults are forced to choose between eating, taking their medications or paying rent," said D. ImeldaPadilla-Frausto, a UCLA graduate student researcher at the center and lead author of the study. "The state might be emerging from a recession, but for many of our elder households, the downturn seems permanent."

National poverty guidelines say that for a single elderly adult living alone, the poverty line is $10,890 a year, but UCLA’s “elder index” puts it at $23,364 in California. The calculations of the hidden poor, unlike the official poverty rate, take into account the cost of living, particularly housing. And that means San Francisco, whose residents have relatively high incomes but extraordinarily high housing costs, has one of the state’s higher rates of elder poverty.

Nearly 1 in 5 adults over 65 in California—more than three-quarters of a million people—live in an economic no-man's land, unable to afford basic needs but often ineligible for government assistance.

The study said population groups with especially large proportions of the hidden poor include grandparents raising grandchildren, elderly with adult children living at home, and single elders. Those “hidden poor” Californians over 65 tend to be Latino or black. Their greatest concentrations are found in rural counties with overall low income levels, topped by Imperial County, where more than 40 percent of the elderly are the hidden poor.

Profit Before Planet

British Gas and SSE, Two of Britain’s largest energy suppliers, which have over 40 per cent of the market between them, are more reliant on coal to produce the electricity they sell to customers than they were 10 years ago. They now use more coal to produce electricity than they did in 2005, new figures suggest. Experts said their reliance on coal – the dirtiest form of fossil fuel, which produces twice as much CO2 as gas – was undermining attempts to cut the UK’s carbon emissions through renewable supplies. Electricity generated by coal emits around 910 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour compared with 390g for gas generation, and nothing for nuclear or renewable power.

In the past 10 years the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources has grown by 400 per cent – yet total carbon emissions from generation have only fallen by around 8 per cent. This is because while the Big Six energy companies are now buying more than a third of the energy that they sell from polluting coal-fired power stations, they have cut back on buying power from more expensive but greener gas-fired power stations. 

Last year, 22 per cent of the electricity sold by British Gas came from coal generation. In 2005 the figure was 14 per cent. Just over 31 per cent of SSE’s electricity was generated from coal compared with 29 per cent in 2005. New entrants to the electricity market that have benefited from consumers switching suppliers for cheaper bills are highly dependent on coal. iSupplyEnergy, First Utility and Flow Energy, for example, sell electricity of which almost half is produced by coal-fired power stations.

Experts said many companies had chosen to continue buying and using electricity generated from coal because it was more profitable to do so. “In the absence of rules to cut pollution from the dirtiest coal stations it has been very profitable for the big energy companies to burn more coal,” said Joss Garman, associate director for energy and climate change at IPPR. “This has been hugely damaging to Britain’s efforts to build a cleaner economy because it has cancelled out some of the carbon savings brought about by the growth in green energy.”

Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s policy director added: “These companies may be using more clean energy, but to live up to their rhetoric of combating climate change, they also need to exclude the dirtiest fuel from their energy mix and that means cutting back on coal…

Monday, August 31, 2015

Socialist Standard September 2015


Brazil's Land-grabbing

 According to the report, "Violence Against Indigenous People in Brazil," recently published by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), the number of indigenous people killed in the country grew 42 percent from 2013 to 2014; 138 cases were officially registered. The majority of the murders were carried out by hit men hired by those with economic interests in the territories. In an effort to make way for new investment projects, the Brazilian government and transnational corporations have been taking over ancestral indigenous lands, triggering a rise in murders of indigenous people in Brazil.

In addition to this, there has been a steady flow of people forced to move to small territories after being displaced by economic development projects, as in the case of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where the majority of the population - over 40,000 people - live concentrated on small reservations. These are communities that are exposed to assassinations by hired hit men, lack education and basic necessities, and endure deplorable health conditions. Infant mortality rates in the community are high and rising: According to official statistics, last year 785 children between the ages of 0 and 5 died. A report, titled "Projects that impact indigenous lands," released by CIMI in 2014, revealed that at least 519 projects have impacted 437 ancestral territories, directly affecting 204 indigenous groups. The energy sector has most deeply affected indigenous people; of the 519 documented projects, 267 are energy-related. In second place is infrastructure, with 196 projects. Mining is third, with 21 projects, and in fourth place, with 19 expansive projects, is agribusiness. Ecotourism comes next with 9 projects. According to research carried out by Ricardo Verdum at the Center for the Study of Indigenous Populations at the Federal University in the state of Santa Catarina, of the 23 hydroelectric dams that will be built in the Amazon, at least 16 will have negative social and environmental effects on indigenous territories. They will destroy the environmental conditions that these indigenous groups depend on to live and maintain their way of life.

"In the Amazon region, the region of the Tapajos River, we are being fenced in," João Tapajó - a member of the Arimun indigenous group - told Truthout. "The Teles waterway is being constructed and the BR163 highway widened. This is being done to transport the transnational corporations' grain and minerals," added Tapajó, who is part of one of the groups that make up the Indigenous Movement of the region Bajo Tapajós, in the state of Pará. "We live under constant threat from agribusinesses and lumber companies. There is a construction project to build five hydroelectric dams on the same river. To top it off, our region is suffering from a process of prospecting for the exploitation of minerals, by the companies Alcoa y Vale do Rio Doce."

The states of Mato Grosso del Sur, Amazonas and Bahía figure heavily in the statistics. An emblematic case was the brutal killing of the indigenous woman Marinalva Kaiowá, in November of 2014. She lived in recovered territories, land that for over 40 years has been claimed by the Guaraní people as the land of their ancestors. Marinalva was assassinated - stabbed 35 times - two weeks after attending a protest with other indigenous leaders at the Federal Supreme Court in the Federal District of Brasilia. The group was protesting a court ruling that annulled the demarcation process in the indigenous territory of the Guyraroká.

"We, the Guaraní, principally from Mato Grosso do Sul, have been the greatest victims of massacres and violence," the Guaraní Kaiowá indigenous leader Araqueraju told Truthout. "They have killed many of our leaders, they have spilled much blood because we are fighting for the respect for and demarcation of what is left of our territories that the government does not want to recognize."

Capitalism has no interest in the health, safety or welfare of people or the environment. Its only interests are profits - this is why our planet is in such peril.

Scab Workers

Pittsburgh firm Allegheny Technologies has been involved in a labor dispute with United Steelworkers that has led to 2,000 members being locked out over the course of this month. A company Storm Engineering, which finds scab workers to break strikes, has placed an ad on Craigslist looking for workers to work 84-hour-week during the lockout. The company is very upfront about that it is hiring scabs - “THIS IS A LABOR DISPUTE SITUATION – EMPLOYEES WILL BE TRANSPORTED ACROSS A PICKET LINE.”

In the UK, new proposed Tory legislation concerning the employment of temporary workers during industrial action will result in similar adverts appearing in the local press and on websites. 


The Institute for Economics and Peace analysis for its 2015Global Peace Index, shows 81 countries involved in external conflict. The worst country in the world for internal conflict was Uganda, according to the IEP. It has been heavily involved in fighting in the DR Congo, as well as in skirmishes with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony in border regions. The US came second, followed by Rwanda and then the UK. Japan is ranked as the eighth-most peaceful country in the world, second only to New Zealand in the Asia-Pacific region. Iceland is the most peaceful country.

The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2014 was substantial and is estimated at US$14.3 trillion or 13.4 per cent of world GDP. This is equivalent to the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Since 2008, the total economic impact on global GDP has increased by 15.3 per cent, from US$12.4 trillion to US$14.3 trillion.

Meantime, tens of thousands of people protested outside the Japanese parliament on Sunday to reject plans put forth by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that would see an aggressive expansion of the nation's armed forces despite a long-standing constitutional mandate for a "defense only" military posture.

Fake Apprenticeships - Cheap Labour

Hundreds of thousands of young people are being encouraged into low-skill, low-pay, on-the-job training schemes to meet ministers’ “mad” target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020, new figures reveal. 60 per cent of all new apprentices are now studying for qualifications worth no more than five GCSE passes. In contrast, less than 3 per cent of new apprenticeships were at the higher level – equivalent to a foundation degree. There have been only 220 new science and maths apprenticeships created at any level, while engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships make up fewer than one in five of the new jobs. 

The roles being offered on the Government’s website appear to be little more than traditional school-leaver jobs in clerical, catering and retail work “rebranded” as apprenticeships. There are now apprenticeships in street cleaning, warehouse labouring and shop work. This allows employers to pay a new 18-year-old worker just £2.73 an hour compared with the national minimum wage for that age range of £5.13. While employers are obliged to pay those staff for the one day a week they spend in academic training, this is more than made up for by the government grants available for taking on apprentices.

Experts warned that ministers risked “devaluing” the apprenticeship brand in their efforts to hit an artificial political target. They pointed out that there were only two million 16- to 18-year-olds in the country, many of whom were still at school – making it hard to achieve the Government’s aim even if it were desirable to do so.
“It is a mad and artificial political target which risks undermining the reputation of apprenticeships,” said Professor Alison Wolf, who chaired a Government review into vocational education in 2011. “What the Government should be doing is concentrating on those high-value apprenticeships which teach vocational skills in manufacturing and engineering which historically Britain has been bad at fostering. The danger is that money and resources is put into hitting a meaningless numerical target.”

“The political narrative and the reality of what is happening in apprenticeships are quite far apart from one another,” said Naomi Weir, the Campaign for Science and Engineering group’s acting director. “The political narrative is about high-level, technical, graduate-equivalent apprenticeships whereas the reality is that there are only a few thousand of across the whole apprenticeship system. That is not a viable alternative to university. It could be but there needs to be a lot of effort to get us into a position of having a high-level technical system that we need to run alongside higher education.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

WSP(NZ) Welcomes Refugees

Almost every day New Zealanders watch the reports on the global refugee crisis. Anyone paying any attention to current events will have seen the Mediterranean turning into a watery grave as Europe argues over how to deal with this influx of asylum seekers. Workers should understand that the country’s intake is very small. The New Zealand government's response has been just 100 places within the quota since the war began four long years ago.

Many opposing help for refugees present the "put New Zealanders first" line. It goes like this: we have poverty here, once that is totally fixed we can accept more poor people from abroad. This argument mistakes refugees as a burden and is a reasoning mostly founded on xenophobic fears.

Murdoch Stephens, spokesperson and researcher for ‘Doing Our Bit - Double New Zealand's Refugee Quota’ suggests that the quota should keep pace with New Zealand’s rising population. This would increase the quota to 1120 places. But on top of the quota we also take 300 people through family reunification and about 120 people as asylum seekers (once appeals have been counted). Fifteen years ago the average was 500 accepted asylum seekers per year. The significant decrease since then has been due to pre-screening of people before they could get to New Zealand to claim asylum.  Since the government closed that window, it should open a door: 380 more places in the quota to make up for the number we used to take. Add this to the population increase and the quota should be 1500 places. NZ would be doubling the quota in nominal terms, but in real terms we'd be doing only what we've done in the past. The average Kiwi will not notice, but the 750 extra people – roughly 200 families – certainly will.

Amnesty International is also calling for New Zealand to double its refugee quota to help deal with the international humanitarian crisis. New Zealand executive director of Amnesty International, Grant Bayldon said New Zealand had not changed its refugee quota in almost 30 years and was ranked 90th in the world for the number of refugees it took annually. He said not only was New Zealand not leading the world in taking its share of refugees, it was a laggard.

Holocaust Research and Education Centre director Inge Woolf said the Government must increase its current refugee limit of 750 people. She said all nations should increase their refugee quotas. "I'm a survivor of the holocaust and I know my family found it very hard to find shelter. We eventually did by going on holiday visas to England, but most of my family didn't." She said asylum seekers faced huge obstacles as they tried to get to safety. Ms Woolf said she had empathy for refugees trying to flee their homelands. "These people are desperate to leave the places they've gone from. They don't do it for a joy ride and it's up to the nations of the world to take in more of them." She said refugees were valuable citizens to the country that took them in. After WW2 New Zealand took about 1,000 Jewish immigrants and said it had done its bit. Paltry, insignificant and inconspicuous are words they use to describe our efforts at rescuing people fleeing the worst persecution the modern world has seen. We now face the biggest refugee crisis since WW2. Sixty million people are displaced. This time, New Zealand should step up and offer to take some of those Syrian refugees. They're no different from us.

"What I am seeing here is quite hard to comprehend," says New Zealander Corinne Ambler who works for the Red Cross in Macedonia "It's hard to believe it's happening in Europe. These are human beings, leaving their homes, they don't want to do that, and people need to show them a little bit of humanity." Corinne Ambler says anyone could become a refugee. "At the end of the day, they're people, they're human beings, and other human beings should treat them like that."

The mayor of Ashburton says making it easier for migrants to work in Canterbury will, in turn, help reinvigorate the region's economy. Angus McKay said he wanted a friendlier, smoother transition for people coming to the area to live and work from abroad. Mr McKay said there had been an influx of migrants into Ashburton over the past 10 years. According to the latest census figures, he said, the average age of people in the district was falling as a result. 

It is the lucky few only who manage to break through the mass of regulations and restrictions which the various countries insist on imposing before they will allow a refugee to settle within their boundaries. Every country with room to spare should ease open its bureaucratic door and undertake to accept unfortunate men, women and children in urgent need of help with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. Human beings are being shunted from one place to another, in response to political events, and treated as objects to be kept at arm's length or sent back as quickly as possible to wherever they came from.

Sadly, under capitalism, artificial lines on maps divide the world into different camps, which enable those who own the Earth to defend their bit of it. A sensible society would have no concept of refugee-hood or any of the other states of oppression. Far better to have a world where men and women can be free to travel over its surface without the futile restrictions of nationality, and where he or she can satisfy their needs from a sufficiency of wealth that only socialism can make available. Inside socialism, where the whole Earth is the common property of the whole world's population, we will all be able to travel our planet to work wherever we desire, safe in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will welcome us on whichever shore we land.
That is the aim of the World Socialist Party (New Zealand). Shouldn't it be yours, too?

WSP(NZ) website:



In a festival mood

The Socialist Party will have literature stalls at these two events and members will be available to answer any questions on the Party’s case that you may have.

Kent Miners' Festival
Monday, 31 August - 10:00am - 5:00pm
Betteshanger Community Park, Colliers Way (A258),
Betteshanger Business Park,
near Deal CT14 OLT

Carshalton Environmental Fair
Monday, 31 August - 10:30am - 5:00pm
Carshalton Park, Ruskin Road,
Carshalton SM5 3DD

What Golden Age?

In 1919, the percentage shares of total income received by the top 1 percent and the top 5% stood, respectively, at 12.2 percent and 24.3 percent; in 1923 the shares had risen to 13.1 percent and 27.1 percent and by 1929 to 18.9 and 33.5 percent. According to the Brookings Institution, in 1929 “0.1 percent of the families at the top received practically as much as 42 percent of families at the bottom of the scale.”

By 1929, 71 percent of American families earned incomes of under $2,500 a year, the level that the Bureau of Labor Statistics considered minimal to maintain an adequate standard of living for a family of four. 60 percent earned less than $2,000.00 per year, the amount determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics “sufficient to supply only basic necessities.” 50 percent had less than $1700.00 and more than 20 percent had less than $1,000.00.

During the steep recession in the first years of the decade unemployment (among non-farm workers) hit 19.5 percent in 1921 and 11.4 percent in 1922. In 1924 it rose from 4.1 to 8.3 percent, fell to 2.9 percent in 1926 and was back up to 6.9 percent in 1928. 1922-1926 was the period of fastest growth in production and profits before over-investment and under-consumption slowed the rate of GDP and sales growth. Yet two of those boom years saw unemployment comparable to or exceeding 2015’s official unemployment figures.

Real poverty can be disguised, and the principal means of obscuring material insecurity when there has appeared to exist a middle class has been the extension of credit to vast numbers of working households. During both the 1920s and the Golden Age households accumulated mounting debt in order to achieve the “middle class standard of living.” Workers’ wages needed a substantial supplement of financial speed to goose the buying power required for middle class pleasures. The Twenties were the first instance of what was to become an abiding feature of American capitalism, the need for large scale credit financing to sustain levels of consumption required to stave off macroeconomic retardation and persistent economic insecurity. The Hoover Commission Report, a massive study of the economy of the 1920s conducted by a large team of the country’s most prominent economists, reported that:
“The most spectacular and the most novel development in the field of credit was the growth after 1920 of a variety of forms of consumers’ borrowing… the amount of such credit was tremendously expanded, both absolutely and relatively, during the past decade.”

The proportion of total retail sales financed by credit increased from 10 percent in 1910 to 15 percent in 1927 to 50 percent in 1929. Over 85 percent of furniture, 80 percent of washing machines and 75 percent of phonographs and radios -indeed most new consumer items-   were purchased on time. A prime reason GM pulled ahead of Ford in car sales was that it enabled credit purchases through the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). Credit was even used to buy clothes. Young single working women often went into debt to keep up with the latest styles. By 1929 sales on installment approached $7 billion. Many more people bought these goods than would have had they had to save the total price in cash before making the purchases. Credit pervaded the household economy and disguised low wages, as it would again in the postwar period.

In Middletown, the landmark study of the industrial town Muncie, Indiana, in the years 1924-1925, Robert and Helen Lynd note the pervasiveness of credit in the everyday lives of working people there:
“Today Middletown lives by a credit economy that is available in some form to nearly every family in the community. The rise and spread of the dollar-down-and-not-so-much-per plan extends credit for virtually everything – homes, $200 over-stuffed living-room suites, electric washing machines, automobiles, fur coats, diamond rings – to persons of whom frequently little is known as to their intention or ability to pay.”

Wages did not increase as rapidly as did debt growth. In fact, wages remained flat throughout the 1920s. So debt grew to the point at which it could not be paid. Borrowing and purchasing power then declined in 1926; under-consumption became conspicuous as excess inventories and capacity built up. Crisis ensued.

In 1946 the ratio of household debt to disposable income stood at about 24 percent. By 1950 it had risen to 38 percent, by 1955 to 53 percent, by 1960 to 62 percent, and by 1965 to 72 percent. The ratio fluctuated from 1966 to 1978, but the stagnation of real wages which began in 1973 pressured households further to increase their debt burden in order to maintain existing living standards, pushing the ratio of debt to disposable income to 77 percent by 1979. And keep in mind that accumulating debt was necessary not merely to purchase more toys, but to meet rising housing, health care, education and child care costs. With prohibitive health care costs the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, debt was necessary for all but the wealthy to stay out of poverty.
By the mid-1980s, with ‘neo-liberalism’ in full swing and wages stagnating, the ratio began a steady ascent, from 80 percent in 1985 to 88 percent in 1990 to 95 percent in 1995 to over 100 percent in 2000 to 138 percent in 2007. As debt rose relative to workers’ income, households’ margin of security against insolvency began to erode. The ratio of personal saving to disposable income under neoliberalism began a steady decline, falling from 11 percent in 1983 to 2.3 percent in 1999. The debt bubble that became unmistakable in the 1990s was to be far greater than the bubble of the 1920s; the financial system by now was capable of far more fraud and treachery than was possible in the 1920s, thanks largely to deregulation and derivatives.

The majority of Americans were poor. Working Americans were poor. America was a poor country. In neither period was hard work and the corresponding wage sufficient to avert relative poverty. In the absence of organized resistance, the current age of rising inequality, low wages, high un- and underemployment and increasing economic precariousness will persist indefinitely.

12 countries with highest wealth inequality


This list is ranked based on the Gini coefficient. To put it simply, the closer the number is to zero, the more equal the financial standing between rich and poor. No country has ever gone below 30% so we can say that there is always at least a 30% difference between the wealth of the rich and the poor.

12. Belize
Wealth Inequality: 53.1%
Found on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is the only country in the area with a national language of English. It has the lowest population density in the region but is one of the highest growing populations of the world so far.

11. Colombia
Wealth Inequality: 53.5%
One of the more popular countries in South America, Colombia is very diverse. Their population consists of different races, from immigrants of other countries to colonist lineages from centuries ago. The country has been well known for armed conflicts in the past.

10. Zambia
Wealth Inequality: 54.6%
Since Zambia’s independence in the 60s, growth and improvement have been slow, and it was not only until a few years ago that Zambia experienced economic growth. This has been due to an effort to stem out corruption and improve the standard of living. Zambia is now known as one of the world’s fastest economically reformed countries.

9. The Central African Republic
Wealth Inequality: 56.3%
Also known as CAR, the Central African Republic is known as one of the poorest countries in the world despite being rich in natural resources. This may be a case of mismanagement, but the country has had its share of violent conflicts especially between religions.

8. Honduras
Wealth Inequality: 57.4%
 The country has been constantly experiencing political instability and social problems. Due to this the country has become one of the poorest in the world. They also have the highest murder rate in the world.

7. Angola
Wealth Inequality: 58.6%
Angola is one of the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Despite it being one of the fastest growing economies today, it still has a lot of problems to overcome. The country’s standard of living remains low and so it’s population’s life expectancy.

6. Haiti
Wealth Inequality: 59.2%
Haiti is one of the first countries to have success with a slave revolt. They are also one of the first countries to receive independence in Latin America having defeated the superpowers of the West. As of now Haiti is riddled with problems especially with the frequency of political killings and instability.

5. Botswana
Wealth Inequality: 61%
Botswana is the fastest growing economy in Africa and was formerly the poorest country in the world. The country is one of the most sparsely populated places in the world. One of the major problems they have to overcome is the high HIV/AIDS infection rate.

4. Namibia
Wealth Inequality: 61.3%
Coming from a history of violence, Namibia has become one of the most stable countries in the world having a consistently growing economy because of accessible natural resources. Growth has been slow however as the population remains very low and sparse due to the country being mostly desert.

3. Comoros
Wealth Inequality: 64.3%
Comoros is an archipelago island nation found in the Indian Ocean. They are a mixture of different cultures. According to studies half of the population of the country is below the international poverty line.

2. South Africa
Wealth Inequality: 65%
South Africa has a diverse and somewhat solid history having very little violence in terms of their politics. They are the second largest economy in Africa but they still suffer from a very high poverty rate and inequality.

1. Seychelles
Wealth Inequality: 65.8%
One of the reasons why inequality is quite noticeable in a country like Seychelles is because of their low population. With such a low number for comparison, the differences are made larger despite the country being quite stable.