Create wealth to get rid of poverty | Sunday Observer

Create wealth to get rid of poverty

27 December, 2020

You do not have to be an economist to say everyone benefits from economic freedom, not just the rich. Look around your neighbourhood. Some people are rich. They have all the creature comforts. Others are poor. They are malnourished and cannot send their children to popular schools. There is a clear economic gap between the rich and the poor. To bridge the gap, we should take part of the wealth of rich people and distribute it among the poor.

Look at the world. Some countries, such as the United States, Germany, France, and Japan are rich. The third world countries are relatively poor.

In some African countries, people are dying of starvation. To bridge the economic gap between rich and poor countries, we should force the rich countries to distribute their wealth equally among the poor countries.

Some people born into poor families become rich by dint of hard work. They do not become rich by stealing money from the poor. Even some poor countries have become rich through proper economic reforms.

However, resources are not the secret of wealth. Africa has gold, uranium and oil, but the continent remains largely impoverished. On the other hand, Holland has relatively no natural resources. Although half the country is under water, Holland is an affluent country.

Not only Holland, but also other countries can become rich. Why are there so many children roaming the streets in certain parts of India? The country has adequate natural resources, but there is no plan to tap them and make the poor rich.

Free market system

If you study world history, you will note that countries have thrived under the free market system. The tremendous improvement in the standards of living in countries, such as Japan proves this point. We need free market throughout the world so that everyone will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

However, people are divided in their opinions. Some people who do not believe in the free market system want to steal money from the rich and distribute it among the poor.

That is what the kings, emperors and despot who ruled mankind from time to time did. They thought everything on earth belonged to them. They were against the free market system.

Socialists and communists and other economic levellers think that to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, they should take away the money from those who have it. However, this is something impossible to accomplish because there is no fixed amount of wealth in the world. Wealth is something we create. There is no reason to distribute wealth equally among the people when it can be created.

Countries have become rich over the decades of careful planning which increased their wealth. They have improved their health and enjoyed longevity. In the 1950s, people in rich countries lived an average 66.5 years. In the 1990s, they were living 74.2 years.

However, the improvement in life expectancy in poor countries was from 35.5 years to 49.7 years. This does not mean that the improvements in rich countries adversely affected the situation in poor countries. If you look at it closely, the rich are getting richer and the poor too are getting richer not so fast as the rich.

Fishing rod

It is often said that you should give a fishing rod to a poor man rather than giving him a fish. If you give him a fish, he will eat it and ask for more. If you give him a fishing rod, he will start fishing and get rich over time. Similarly, when you give money to the poor, they will squander it. But if you offer them jobs in a factory, they will learn the art of working and earning money.

If you want the whole world to be rich, you need to recognise the basic fact that poverty is the problem and not the difference between poverty and plenty. Poor people must be helped to get out of poverty. From time to time, Sri Lanka too has tried out various methods of helping the poor. When garment factories were opened, young men and women in poor families found employment in them.

Common good

They gradually got out of poverty. The hospitality industry is another area for those who wish to work and earn money. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism was a flourishing industry in Sri Lanka.

The Government should be commended for reopening factories and finding employment to thousands of young men and women.

Steps have been taken to reopen the paper mills in Valachchenai and Embilipitiya. A factory in Kantale is already producing local sugar.

The country will be self-sufficient in turmeric soon. The Government has revived the local batik industry. These are signs that we are creating wealth. To achieve economic freedom, farmers should be encouraged to produce more rice, vegetables and fruits. However, some third world countries do not take the trouble to initiate such economic programs may be due to laziness, complacency, love of power or misguided idealism.

If we can create a system in which everybody can become rich, there is no need to distribute the wealth or steal from the rich. The Government can collect a reasonable tax from the rich and use it for the common good of the people.

As some people believe, the rich should not be overtaxed. They are the people who create wealth. Creating wealth is everybody’s birthright. Nobody should try to prevent it.

The Old Testament might not be the right place to do economic research. However, the Ten Commandments have something to do with economics.

Some Commandments, such as “Thou shalt not make graven images, steal or kill” are fair enough. But the tenth Commandment is specific: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, not anything that is thy neighbour’s. At the end you are advised: “Do not envy your friend’s cow.” That is your neighbour’s wealth.

If you want a house, a car, or even a loaf of bread, go and get it. There is no purpose in feeling jealous about your neighbour who has all of them. Even if you have no knowledge of economics, the Tenth Commandment sends out a clear message that poverty cannot be eradicated by redistributing wealth held by the rich. Anybody can become rich through the creation of wealth.

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