CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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Children are the victims of a globalised world economy

The Philippines is a country with some of the greatest inequity in the world. Sixteen million Filipinos suffer serious poverty out of a population of 107 million. Six million live in extreme poverty. 
 
They suffer the burning heat of summer and the downpours and floods of the rainy season in hovels made of plastic sheeting, scrap wood and rusty metal sheets. They eat only one meagre meal a day and seldom have high protein fish and meat scraps. Most are uneducated, jobless and have low access to health care. 
 
The children are the worst affected. They suffer from malnutrition resulting in stunted growth and learning disabilities, and live in the negative environment of dysfunctional families. Here, harsh words and rejection, hard work and abuse is the norm. 
 
They witness violence and sexual activity from an early age. They are the abandoned throwaway children and families of the Philippines and the poor everywhere.
 
They eat less low-quality rice and a pinch of salt, a spoon of vegetables and seldom meat, if ever. The urban poor eat recycled leftovers from uneaten dinners from restaurants called pagpag (literally, to shake off dust; in this case, cast away food). Their life is harsh, crude, rough and hopeless. Year after year, more children are born into dire poverty. 
 
The government, which is supposedly there to uplift the lives of the poor and create a more equal society, has conducted a war-on-drugs policy that has killed as many as 22,360 people since May 2016 according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
 
The children take to the streets to survive, to escape beatings, broken homes, hunger and survive by joining street gangs, sniffing industrial glue to block the pain of living without love, care, education and enduring a life of misery without a future. 
 
They are mostly innocent children from 10 to 15-years-old and, while not criminally liable for misdemeanors, are nevertheless arrested for being homeless street children. They are illegally jailed and suffer beatings and “slavery” to other, older inmates, sexual abuse and life in an empty cell. 
 
Children commit only two per cent of all crimes in the Philippines.
 
Their alleged survival strategies: petty theft and drug use, are not crimes but an unconscious response to live and they endure injustice, greed and selfishness of a society that condemns them as criminals and does little to change their dire situation. 
 
They are the first line victims of a Philippine economy dominated by a tiny rich elite where an estimated some .00001 per cent own as much as 70 per cent of the national wealth. They are part of a globalised world economy that creates dire poverty for hundreds of millions.
 
Wealthy politicians are mostly members of the economic elite; the ruling dynasties, and they buy their way into government positions of power to protect the wealth of the .00001 percent of the Philippine super rich. 
 
They pass laws to benefit themselves and their rich supporters with lower taxes and low levels of regulation so their corporations and  multinational partners can more or less do what they want to save money like disregarding environmental protections laws.
 
The inequality grows greater with the globalisation of the world economy. 
 
Corporations are moving production to poorer countries that allow the lowest wages and overhead costs. They frequently have sweetheart deals with politicians and pay bribes to get ahead with illegal transactions. 
 
This is a simple statement but holds much truth: The rule of the rich, through dynastic families keeps the poor very poor, uneducated, jobless and ready to sell their votes for a trifle and reelect their oppressor.
 
It allows the global corporations to exploit natural resources and earn vast profits and this concentrates the wealth throughout the world in the hands, pockets and bank accounts of very few people. They are known as the one per cent. 
 
So while a few are very rich, many hundreds of millions of people are very poor, hungry, unemployed or earning starvation wages.
 
It is now a proven fact that one per cent or less of the world’s population owns, controls and enjoys more than half of the entire wealth on the planet. According to Credit Suisse Bank, the wealthiest grew richer by six per cent since 2012 and now own as much as US$ 280 trillion ($2.19 quadrillion).
 
According to research by Oxfam, the inequality is getting much worse. It found that 82 per cent of all the wealth created in the past 12 months (2018) went to the one percent of the world’s population, amounting to few million people. Whereas, the 3.7 billion impoverished people who make up the poorest half of humanity got nothing. 
 
They live in dire poverty, struggling to survive and stay alive. That’s the greatest inequality the world has ever known. Greed and selfishness is king. 
 
A list of the most equitable countries in the world starts with Iceland, a very small country with a vocal and vibrant democracy that tolerates no corruption. The Scandinavian countries follow it: Norway, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia and then Austria and Sweden. 
 
The Philippines is among the most corrupt, according to Transparency International and among the greatest unequal countries of all where thousands of children marked as criminals are jailed.
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org