The wealth gap is an understatement – Commentary

The wealth gap is an understatement, for that differential between haves and have-nots can no longer be confined to a mere gap. The stark reality is that it is more of a wealth ocean in vastness, a separate planet all by itself. Gap does not begin to capture the hard disparities.

According to the 2018 report from the Billionaire Bonanza, as published by the Institute for Policy Studies and carried online by Yahoo Finance on April 26, in America, the land of unlimited opportunity and dreams, three family dynasties – the Waltons of Walmart supermarket fame, the Koch Brothers with diversified businesses, and the Mars family, makers of the candy with the same name, together possess and control “a staggering US$348.7 billion in assets as of October 2018”.         

”This represents a monumental increase of 6,000 percent in overall holdings for these three superrich families since 1982. Capital breeds capital; prudent risk-taking brings results; and sound entrepreneurial visions harvest incredible returns.”

That was good, at least for those three families. At the individual level, the trend of extreme wealth concentration at the top continued. Three men: Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft), and Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), cumulatively have more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined.

Conversely, the regular man (“median household wealth”) in America is going the other way – down by 3% since 1982. With the average Joe, one in five recorded zero to negative wealth; and 2 in 5 do not have $400 for an emergency. And this is in the richest society in the world.

What is the story in Guyana? What could be the picture, if accurate information on wealth distribution was available?

Lots of the physical symbols of wealth: the many formidable buildings; the much more numerous business ventures; and the endless array of cars (maybe two) in many old and new communities. Almost all who have a vehicle drive. Yet the real-life motor shows are the bus parks at rush hour. Those traveling multitudes flagging down buses and dealing with the routine ordeal of the roads and parks are the minimum wage toilers, renters and scroungers, and the army of unemployed or underemployed.

There are multitudes of them, who cannot afford a basket of basic goods. Not many can claim household income of $80,000 monthly, which would severely stretch the daily existence of a 4-member family. In view of the price of goods and living, that elusive $80,000 (app $400 US) monthly income would still place too many below a realistic poverty line.

Further, in spite of construction, real estate movements and exchanges, aviation travel, conspicuous consumption (all admittedly softer nowadays), a strong case could be made of the relatively few with very much as against the very many with very little on which to get by.

Some observers assert that wealth concentration in Guyana resides in the hands of a mere several hundred citizens; and at that core, are a few dozen only. The wealth differences here may not be as extreme as in the US, but they cannot be very far off either. That is the real Guyana, the mostly unspoken, unseen, and uncared for Guyana. It does exist despite the towers, countless wheels, and the bellows over oil and elections.

The unanswered questions of this moment are: how far is the real top from the rest?

In a largely cash economy and a believed considerably off-the-books and underground one, what is the concentration at the pinnacle of economic strength and how does that relate to perceived hollowness at the middle and below? It can’t be close.

Teacher and nurses say (rightly) it is a struggle. The police complain bitterly. That still leaves a lot of people (labourers, domestics, the unskilled and near-illiterate) in the flutter gutter. Flutter is that heartbeat away from personal and family failure; gutter because it is the pits of existence.
When the races are over, which leader is there for them?

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 05/02/2019 at 1:12 pm

    This is our sad reality as humans on this planet called Earth. We live in open prisons (those of us who aren’t incarcerated), sell our labor (and soul, if required) for survival, believe ourselves to be free, and dream of joining the elite club some day.

  • Trevor  On 05/03/2019 at 8:53 pm

    My fellow brethren & sistren of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino descent,

    You will have noticed mega construction projects across GT, but this is our future, a future where we have ZERO rights to even live in these massive hotels and high rises:

    The Caucasians will live in these luxury hotels and apartments, while we have to sleep on the streets, if nothing is done to demand accountability and housing rights for Guyanese.

  • Trevor  On 05/03/2019 at 8:59 pm

    The sacrifices that many parents made when migrating to the 1st world is rarely mentioned—working in factories for 12 hour shifts, working in the service industry and getting raped by their boss and police is on the employer’s side for the rape and abuse, etc.

    Instead, those who became rich from alleged ties to the drug trade and laundering the proceeds into American, Canadian and European real estate give a false impression of what life is really like in the 1st world.

    The 1st world has the stringent laws which are used against the working classes, while the rich only have to pay a measly fine which is pocket change to their salaries and profit.

    Certain types of Guyanese, who comprise of the majority of the drugs trade, like to post videos of their lavish lifestyles on Instagram & Facebook, and everyone believes that this is the life of the 1st world.

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