Redistribution will never work as a one-sided game

As long as redistributive policies are politicized as “us vs. them” the inherent goal (altruistic for this blog’s sake) will never be felt. The word “redistribution” signifies justice for the poor and has been known to send many an upper-crust family headed for a Caribbean bank. The fact that this indeed occurs is the issue at hand, but one that most politicians are hesitant to tackle for good reason.

Emerging economies with middle-classes are lauded for their social and economic advances. A middle-class signifies an opening up of opportunities and a certain freedom to develop as a citizen and a person. Yet as competition creates opportunities and lowers costs on goods and services thus catalyzing middle-class growth, in many emerging economies with severely demarcated class structures, the poor remain despite the redistributive package that has been handed to them by the prevailing regime. The reason being – there was never any buy-in from the middle or upper class for this redistribution package nor was its importance ever effectively communicated.

As such, the ultimate power as to whether that poorer individual will be able to gain employment or progress upward is typically in the hands of someone of a higher class. Countries with populist presidents who depend on these packages to garner support typically communicate this message in a less than conciliatory manner. The result, “us vs. them” with the “them” being handed the all too easy choice of not having to engage which further widens the divide.

NGOs, civil society organizations, and international aid organizations should concentrate more on lobbying for policy-related decision-making rather than serving strictly as programmatic organizations. Of course the programming is integral to development, but creating incentives for middle and upper-class employers to reach out and invest in the poor, and most important, understand that upward mobility by the poor will ultimately result in further development for the middle and upper classes is the critical issue to get across. I have been too many countries (of which will remain un-named) where there appear to be clear policy measures to “build around the poor.” This will fail in the end as a marginalized society can never truly advance.

Re-education should be the goal, not redistribution.  

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