The Pandora Papers revelations and ‘How the Other Half Dies’

Spread the love

The alarm, which does not seem to have had any kind of impact on particularly the power elites of the world, was sounded by the UNHCR a few months back amid the rising torments of the Covid-19 pandemic. The UN agency stated that South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Syria were at risk of descending into famine. It went on to say that ‘people in extreme poverty worldwide are expected to rise between 119 million and 124 million as a result of the pandemic. ‘

Detailing the situation of people of mainly the global South who are currently compelled to live amid the destabilizing conditions of war, the UNHRC said: “The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes around the world has risen to a record 82 million despite the impact of the pandemic….The total has doubled in a decade and means more than 1 per cent of the world’s population is displaced”.

These grim statistics give the public, maybe, just the basics relating to the problem of mounting global poverty and disempowerment amid contemporary conditions of war and conflict that has been severely compounded by Covid-19 and its consequences. The problem is probably graver and more disquieting than the details thus given suggest. We are bound to learn more of the crisis from the UN and its agencies as time goes by.

However, what is likely to render the problem of war, conflict and their results particularly agonizing for the conscience-stricken is the revelation in the Pandora Papers, that have currently hit the headlines, that the political elites of the world have been increasingly and unconscionably empowering themselves by questionable means over the decades. As is known, Russian President Vladimir Putin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jordanian King Abdullah 11 are mentioned as having offshore accounts, among scores of others. Needless to say, these are the big names that have come to light thus far. More such names are likely to emerge from the global scandal by and by.

Not be outdone as it were, Sri Lanka too is hogging the limelight in this connection by adding two big names of its own to the list of celebrities who have amassed wealth through offshore companies. The matter needs to be thoroughly probed by the Sri Lankan authorities with a view to ascertaining whether, among other things, the country has lost valuable taxable income as result of money being stashed by the persons concerned in offshore financial institutions.

May it be mentioned that sections of the Sri Lankan public suffer immensely as a result of being taxed on their comparatively very meagre income every year. No one should be seen as being above the law in this context. How the moneys in question were earned by the relevant Sri Lankan celebrities is another matter that is crying out for investigation. Will the Sri Lankan authorities prove up to it? This is the question.

When astute economist Susan George came out with her ground-breaking study, ‘ How the Other Half Dies ‘, she had under her lens the grim realities of the Third World of mainly the sixties and seventies. But considering that famine is making a comeback currently in sections of the South amid widening income disparities, domestically and internationally, George could be considered as having written prophetically. The poor everywhere are withering and dying, while the rich are amassing wealth for themselves, very often by questionable means. Thus, does ‘the Other Half’ or the poor and disempowered die, figuratively and literally.

Numerous are the ways in which the poor are plundered and allowed to die, and George details some of these ways in her celebrated work. However, subsequent scholarship has built on these insights of George and updated the world on the social, economic and political processes through which the weak and vulnerable of the world are increasingly blighted and marginalized.

A book that has proved its worth in this connection is, ‘Politics of Globalization ‘, edited by Samir Dasgupta and Jan Nederveen Pieterse. A collection of research papers published by SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd. (, this work sheds invaluable light on the doings and misdoings of contemporary ruling elites. Among other things, the book focuses on the parasitical practices of ruling elites, by virtue of their being an all-pervasive transnational capitalist class. Whether it be Colombo, Moscow or London, they constitute the ruling power and they share common exploitive interests.

Leslie Sklair in the paper titled, “The Transnational Capitalist Class and the Politics of Capitalist Globalization ‘’, in the above book, states, among other things, of the transnational capitalist class: “As ideologues, their intellectual products serve the interests of the globalizing rather than localizing capital. This follows directly from the shareholder-driven growth imperative that lies behind the globalization of the world economy and the increasing difficulty of enhancing shareholder value in purely domestic firms, encouraging the tendencies to ‘creative accounting ‘and fraud.”

The above insights should enable concerned publics the world over to understand why power elites are driven to stash their moneys, ill-gotten or otherwise, in offshore financial institutions and to use such financial assets to amass material wealth abroad. Their interests are closely intertwined with those of transnational capital since the local capitalist setup does not provide enough scope for the further growth of their financial and material wealth. Given this backdrop, it should not come as a surprise if the transnational capitalist class does not feel a sense of identity with their countries of origin.

Accordingly, as a result of mints of money being stashed abroad by local elites, national economies the world over are being increasingly impoverished. There is a huge quantity of money here that could be directly taxed, for instance, and ploughed into the local economy for the benefit of the people. Needless to say, local income inequalities would widen enormously, resulting in the marginalization and pauperization of local people. Simultaneously, international economic inequalities would increase because the capitals of the countries that receive the surreptitiously transferred moneys would grow in financial clout.

The hope of the conscience-filled is likely to be that progressive sections would keep the issues growing out of the Pandora Papers alive and work towards maximum social and economic equity, locally and internationally, on the basis of these revelations.

Courtesy The Island

Post Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The Pandora Papers revelations and ‘How the Other Half Dies’ - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *