In the book Economic Explained (by Robert Heilbroner and Lester Thurow), a parade of incomes was depicted in the analogy of a parade of flags. The population is lined up in order of its income. 'Assume that the height of the middle houshold to be 6 feet, representing a median income of $34,000 in 1995. This will be our height as observers. What would our parade look like?
It would begin with a few families below the ground, for there are some hosueholds with negative incomes; that is, they report losses for the year. Mainly these are families with business losses, and are not matched by general poverty. Following close comes a longline of dwarfs who make up about one fifth of all families, people less than three feet tall. Some are shorter than one foot.
Only after the parade is half over do we reach people whose faces are at our level. Then come the giants. When we reach the last 5 percent of the parade - incomes above $100,000 - people are 20 feet tall. At the end of the parade, people tower 600 to 6000 feet into the air - one hundred to one thousand times as tall as the middle height. What is the largest income in the country? Probably our sixty-odd billionaires have incomes of over $100 million. '
- adapted from Jan Pen, Income Distribution, (New York: Praeger, 1971).
It blows my mind away to imagine the two extreme ends of the parade. The analogy provides a very interesting way to see how unequally is wealth distributed throughout the world population. Why is this happening? Is capitalism to be blamed?
Many would agree the saying that the poorer you are, the harder is it for you to get out from poverty. Another interesting logic that I heard (from Chin Tong) was that families with higher income which afford to hire maids, will have more times to go out to work and earn more, and vice versa.
Are our systems built to help the less fortunate?
These findings were coupled with the article I read on Malaysiankini on the health service in the rural area in Sarawak. While the urban dwellers are so blessed with high-end medical devices and hospital facilities, villagers in the interior of Borneo has to walk hours by foot just to go to a clinic. If the medical condition get serious, the only way, other than laying to death, is to fly them off to hospitals in town such as Miri. Yet even that, the contractor has failed to fulfill their contract in providing helicopter service. Upon reaching the hospital (if they successfully do), some villagers face the rejection from the hospital as they do not have identity cards. Remember, they live in rural area which is far far away from the National Registration Department, and might not even know how to get there. Yet for those that managed to receive medical assistance, who will help them to pay the bills?
Indeed, these are the people that are 'long forgotten by the nation 46 years after their independence from British rule', as the writer puts it.
One story on unequal distribution of wealth in the world of humankind, and another one on the unequal treatment of social welfare to people who are all being called the same - Malaysians.
I understand neither of them.