x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Equality at Davos

How rich is too rich? How poor is too poor? What can be done about the gap?

At $240 billion (Dh880 billion), the wealth accumulated in 2012 by the world's 100 richest individuals could have ended extreme poverty four times over. That statistic was published this week by the charity Oxfam ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, where some of the wealthiest and most powerful will gather to discuss global challenges, poverty among them.

Extreme poverty must be tackled with unified effort, from individuals, corporations and governments together. Extreme hunger, in which people go days without food or water, puts a heavy ethical burden on those with more to provide for those with less.

But there is another "extreme" that will frame the debate at Davos, if only from the sidelines. And that's the issue of extreme wealth. Do the haves have too much? As Oxfam sees it, extreme wealth is "economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive", and "depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else" - especially those at the bottom.

Global challenges can't be solved over five days at a ski resort in the Alps. But if the world's privileged paused for a moment to ponder whether their riches could be better spent, we would all benefit.