PETALING JAYA: Only bold and progressive government policies can solve the problem of income inequality, not corporate initiatives, an adviser to the United Nations (UN) said today.
According to Ben Phillips, there is not a single example of a country that has substantially or sustainably solved income inequality through NGO projects or private initiatives, such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, or even free market self-correction.
“It is always through government policies. There is also no ‘one single bullet’ policy, but the policy mix is not a mystery.
“There are some good examples from Brazil and other Latin American countries since the start of this century that made a difference.
“These were policies on wage increase, the rights of workers, putting money in the hands of ordinary people, expansion of public services, progressive taxation, land reforms, and tackling discrimination,” he said in his keynote address during The Hasanah Forum 2021 organised by Yayasan Hasanah today.
He added that similarly, no country has ever achieved universal literacy, universally completed schooling, or created universal healthcare without government intervention.
Phillips, the author of a book titled “How to Fight Inequality (and Why That Fight Needs You)”, said that while it is good that some corporations are setting up initiatives to assist marginalised communities, their efforts do not create “widespread changes” in tackling the problem of inequality.
Aside from the UN, Phillips is also an adviser to governments and civil society organisations around the world.
Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on workers, Phillips cited a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) earlier this year.
“Workers worldwide have suffered a cumulative income loss of about US$3.7 trillion due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“That is why, we have to limit the salaries of company executives, and the ability of shareholders to extract wealth by law,” he said.