Lately there has been a lot of discussion about inequality. Some people see it as the main reason for globalisation and capitalism coming under scrutiny. This despite abundant evidence that globalisation has helped to reduce poverty across the world. Inequality is a fact, but the extent to which it is growing because of politicians or business leaders failing to act is highly debatable. I don’t deny that a lot of mistakes have been made, but the prevailing trend remains towards more of the world’s poorer people being lifted out of poverty.
Even so, it is remarkable how often changes in wealth distribution are misused as shorthand for rising poverty. A prominent example here this week has been the flurry of media attention focused on Oxfam’s report stating that eight individuals together own more wealth than the poorer half of the global population. Ok, headline-grabbing statistic, but let’s not mistake that to mean poverty is increasing and then blame globalisation, which in reality has been such a great driver of improving the wellbeing and prospects of millions of people.
The acceptance of wealth also has a lot to do with the question of how that wealth has been created. For example, was it through talent and hard work? Did the person always behave ethically? Did they act in the interests of all their stakeholders? At Davos this week, I attended a meeting of PACI (Partnering Against Corruption Initiative) where the World Economic Forum and partners from business, politics and NGOs are working hard on finding ways to reduce corruption. Contrary to some prevailing opinion pointing the finger of blame at parts of Africa or Latin America, corruption is a global issue. Personally, I think it is one of the biggest evils in our world. It mainly involves people who are in decision making and leadership roles, people who should lead by example.
JLL has been very active in this World Economic Forum initiative. For many years, the JLL Transparency Index has been one of the leading global tools in the real estate sector contributing to fighting corruption. There are several other key actions which will help to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate all this wrongdoing. Many have to do with transparency, free press and the rule of law – but the underlying problem will not go away unless we embed true ethical integrity at the core of all business and political life. Encouragingly, the younger generation seems far more focused on this essential need – and the World Economic Forum and its partners in PACI are also doing some outstanding work.
The 2017 gathering in Davos is coming to a close. Our world is full of challenges and disappointments, but more importantly it is also full of talented bright and enthusiastic young people committed to improving our societies. Let’s have trust in them.