Toronto – January 25, 2013 – For too long we’ve problematized the poor and overlooked the wealthy. It’s time to turn the tables, argues New Internationalist reporter Vanessa Baird.
Now here’s a puzzle. The world economy is in a fix. Most people are getting poorer. Household income is down by more than five per cent on last year. That’s the global average; in some countries it’s much worse. We need 80 million new jobs to get us back to pre-crash employment levels. And the progress on reducing world hunger has stalled, leaving one in seven people without enough to eat.
But for one group of people life just gets better, no matter where they live. Known as HNWIs – High Net Worth Individuals – this global élite’s fortunes just keep rising.
In the past year, the 400 richest Americans have seen their wealth grow by $200 billion – enough to provide every student in the country with free education, except, of course, it isn’t spent that way.4
During the same period, the 1,000 richest Britons have watched their fortunes swell to record levels – to $667 billion – a nearly five-per-cent increase on the previous year.5
India’s ultra-rich increased in number by 30 per cent in 2012. Sri Ram Khanna of the Delhi School of Economics observes: ‘The better-offs continue to prosper in a slowdown and are largely immune to it… The lower your income, the more you are at risk. It is a global phenomenon.’6
How did we get here? How did members of this new plutocracy manage to peel themselves off from the rest of humanity, to feed off the crisis?
But first: let’s have a look at who they might be.