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IMPLICATIONS are often because of economic reasons but

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IMPLICATIONS
OF INEQUALITY IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

WHY
INEQUALITY MATTERS

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Every country has its
own social problems and political landscape that contours the extent and
effects of inequalities. Economic forces do not solely determine inequalities,
but they are determined by politics and policies. Extreme disparity often leads
to harmful social, economic, and political effects.

Economic
Arguments

Inequalities of any
kind and specially that of income and belongings have detrimental economic
effects. Increasing inequalities, with disproportionate income distributions, diminishes
aggregate demand which slows economic growth. The attempt of monetary establishments
to offset these effects can lead to creation of credit bubbles, and these in
turn lead to economic instability. That is why inequality is often linked with
economic instability. It should be noted that that inequality had reached high
levels before the Great Recession in 2008 and before the Great Depression in
the 1930s.

Reducing
inequality has remarkable economic and social benefits. People’s belief that
society is just and fair is strengthened, social cohesion is enhanced, making
it more probable that more citizens will live up to their potential that will
broaden support for growth initiatives.

Political
and Social Arguments

The economic divide between the rich and
the poor are often because of economic reasons but some other factors which do
contribute to the disparity are some of the public policies of the
establishment on issues such as tax, investment in education, investment in healthcare,
level of minimum wages etc. This is the reason even countries with similar
economic circumstances have noticeably different levels of inequality. It are these
inequalities then affect policy-making because even officials elected
democratically respond more sincerely and to the views of prosperous
constituents than they do to the views of poor.

DIMENSIONS
OF INEQUALITY

There are many dimensions to
inequality—some with more invidious effects than others. One thing is however certain
that sustainable development cannot be achieved while overlooking extreme inequalities.
There are four specific angles from which to scrutinize the SDGs and their
interaction with issues related to inequality: access, gender, opportunity and
outcomes. The income angle is relatively direct in most respects. Tackling
poverty itself is an important part of reducing inequality.

One of the most malicious forms of
inequality is the inequality of opportunity, which reflects in a lack of
socioeconomic mobility, condemning those born into the bottom of the economic
pyramid to almost surely remain there. Just focusing on one dimension at a time
may underestimate the true magnitude of societal inequalities and provide an
inadequate basis for policy. For example, health inequality is both a cause and
consequence of income inequality. Inequalities in education are a primary
determinant of inequalities in income and opportunity.

We are currently standing at crossroads.
The challenge of unsustainable growth means that we are plunging towards
climate catastrophe, and the challenge of inequitable growth means that we are dashing
towards increased poverty, increased marginalization and increased anger.

The problem has been that we have always
believed and continue to do so that we can practice unsustainable development
and then clean it up. However, such an approach does not really work. We end up
managing small fallouts and stay behind the problem. Growth that is not
affordable or in other words equitable, cannot be sustainable. Politics of
development cannot be pushed away when we mention sustainability.

The
case of air pollution

We can take an example of air pollution to
illustrate these points. Today, a small fraction of people in Delhi drives a
car. In Delhi, the proportion is approximately 15 per cent, but air pollution
is at a very high level and the congestion has become unbearable. The question
is how will Delhi combat air pollution as more and more people start to drive?
What measures can be put in place for the remaining 85 per cent?

A simple solution is not possible. We simply
cannot fix the tailpipes of individual cars. We would need to plan for
sustainability for all, and for this, we would need to re-invent mobility at a
scale not seen ever before. Without this, we cannot clean our air for anybody,
regardless of his or her economic position. It should be clear solutions must
work for the poor, for them to work for the rich. The atmosphere mirrors the
air pollution of Delhi’s roads on a grand scale. Climate change cannot be mitigated
unless issues of equity are addressed and new ways of growth that work for all
are found, without destroying our planet.

 

The
case of water pollution

Indian rivers are extremely polluted, but
the question again is that how can we clean up our rivers when large numbers of
people are not connected to sanitation and do not have access to clean water?
The state has limited resources and can only invest in providing for some. However,
we should know that if only a part of the city has access to sanitation and sewage,
pollution control will not work. That is because the treated waste of a few
will be mixed with the untreated waste of many resulting in increased pollution
.Greater the pollution, the higher the costs of cleaning the water – even the
rich will not be able to afford the increasing costs of delivery of water or of
taking back waste. This example therefore illustrates again that solutions must
work for the poor, for them to work for the rich.

States,
markets and society – for whom?

In the coming years, when we think about
development it is imperative to rethink the question of states, markets and
society. In recent decades, we have dismembered the state, grown the market and
believed that we have empowered society. The current state–market–society
configuration is about the survival of the fittest, in a way that drives both
growing inequalities, and ultimately unsustainability too. So, in the coming
years, we must also ask insistently – whose society are we talking about, that
of the poor or that of the rich? In most countries, electoral democracy is not
proving sufficient to represent the poor. Therefore a central part of the
development challenge is therefore deepening and strengthening democracy, not
just for the socially connected but for all.

It has increasingly become clear that
sustainable development is not possible if it is not equitable. Growth has to
be affordable and inclusive for it to be sustainable. We will have to
understand that environmental challenge is not technocratic but political. We
cannot neuter the politics of access, justice and rights and hope to fix
environmental or development issues.

MEASURES
PROPOSED TO TACKLE POVERTY

Poverty alleviation
and sustainable development supplement each other.

Poverty is more than just the lack of income and resources to
ensure a sustainable livelihood. It also includes hunger and malnutrition,
limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and
exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic
growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.

THE
KEY FACTORS TO FIGHT POVERTY AND HUNGER

Sustained Economic
Growth

Economic growth over the past years has been quite
promising around the globe. Due to strong growth in developing economies over
the past few years, a large number of people around the globe managed to get
out of extreme poverty. However, the progress attained so far is not adequate.
Overall progress in reducing poverty remains uneven. Sustained economic growth
is a major factor in reducing poverty. However, growth alone does not translate
automatically into reduced poverty levels and less hunger. In fact, in most of
the rapidly growing economies, inequalities tend to increase as well. In order
to translate economic growth into pro-poor gains at the domestic level, growth
must be accompanied by strengthened institutional capacity, equitable delivery
of public services, active social inclusion, bridging the gap between urban and
rural development, as well as investment in human capital.

Empowerment of
women

The importance of empowering women in the context of
overcoming poverty and hunger deserves a special mention and cannot be
understated. The productive and creative potential of women who make up over
half of the globe’s population is a tremendous asset. Counties around the globe
need to identify and implement four priorities for women empowerment: women in decision-making,
balance between family and work, equal wages policy, and gender roles.

Focus on education,
employment and skill acquisition

Education and skill acquisition are equally important and
powerful tools in poverty eradication. Lack of education and employment
opportunities are among the determinants of poverty’s perpetuation from
generation to generation, and without added improvements in this field,
breaking away from the poverty trap is highly difficult.

Global partnership of developed and
developing countries

The
eradication of extreme poverty demands a constructive and truly global
partnership of developed and developing countries. Developed countries should
take steady steps in providing assistance to developing countries. There is a
need for assistance and sustained aid to extremely poor countries, which can only
be achieved through better coherence and coordination.

Adequate public expenditure in
critical areas

Adequate
expenditure should be made by governments to enable access to basic services
like quality and affordable health care, quality education, good nutrition,
infrastructure, water resources, electricity and information and communication
technologies to all sections of the population. Although fiscal sustainability
is important in the medium term, greater flexibility on public expenditure and
public investment for key physical infrastructure, human resources and
strategic sectors is needed in the short term.

Good governance and accelerated
implementation of pro-poor policies and programs

Good
governance at all levels, including the fight against corruption, is a foundation
of eradicating poverty. National strategies may be working working, although
not on the scale required. There is a need to accelerate implementation by
scaling up effective policies and programs and fueling innovation.

Encouragement to private
sector/businesses for poverty eradication

Profitable
businesses are putting billions of dollars into developing economies and
providing economic support to millions of people. If one applies special
efforts to boost local suppliers and develop sustainable businesses in the
local supply, the effect can be magnified at no great cost. Through the
effective running of normal business, with extensions into its supply chain and
using its skills in enterprise development, a company can have a very significant
impact on the establishment and growth of sustainable livelihoods which are
essential to poverty reduction.

 

 

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