9 February 2007Much of the world has seen “a significant and disturbing increase of inequality” in the last two decades, contradicting predictions that globalization and liberalization would foster more equal opportunities, a senior United Nations economist said today. “The evidence is quite clear,” Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Jomo Kwame Sundaram said at a press briefing at the world body’s Headquarters in New York. “Inequality has grown at two levels: between countries and within most countries – with the notable exceptions of Northern Europe and some Middle Eastern and North African countries.” The increase of inequality across the world “is very contradictory to the proponents of the ‘flat world idea,’” he said. “They basically argue that, as a consequence of globalization and economic liberalization, the result will be a much more equitable world with equal opportunities, and unfortunately the contrary has been the case.” This surge of inequality had very important implications for efforts to reduce poverty, Mr. Sundaram said. Much of the world had experienced slower economic growth in the last three decades, and with increasing inequality it was not surprising there had not been a significant decrease in the hundreds of millions of people who are poor. The remedy was to try and create full, productive and decent employment, he said. “There is no real way we can reduce poverty except by creating jobs, and this is something we need to recognize.” Despite the improved economic growth in the last five years, there had been a worldwide decline in the number of jobs and an increase in unemployment and underemployment. Inequality should be moved at the top of the development agenda, he said, and the focus should remain on the close interrelationship between inequality, poverty and unemployment. Mr. Sundaram was presenting the new book Flat World, Big Gaps, which he co-edited with social development expert Jacques Baudot, who was also present at the briefing. “The book tries to restore the linkage between the reduction of inequality and reduction of poverty,” Mr. Baudot said. “It shows that the question of economic growth is not simply a matter of increasing the aggregate of income, but is a matter of the kind of growth, the composition of it and whom it has benefited.”

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