(Real Title – Is The West Sucking The World Dry? But now we’ve got your attention please read this article – this story really does matter!) 

 By Greta Rose Alp and Aidan Stephenson

Shops bursting with goods. So much choice. Sparkling signs and brimming fancy restaurants. Christmas sales, cut prices, rich foods. Bubbling, colourful people, laughing faces and smiling eyes. This is it; this is our world… Right? Not for everyone. Although most don’t realize it, people living in the rich western countries are extremely lucky to be there, you got dealt the four aces. For others it’s a very different story. Travel to the south and you will witness a change in wealth so huge it will make your jaw drop.


Still today, in what we would hope to be a well-evolved world, so many people are left with so little money many can’t afford to survive. In fact over 3 billion people in this world are living on just £2.50 a day. Imagine if that was you and your family living in these conditions, your brothers and sisters are starving, your parents worked off their feet, you have to miss all your education to work in terrible often unsafe conditions just to help put food on the table. There’s no time anymore for simple pleasures, such as reading, video games, facebook etc… its work or starve.


“Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.”


World Resources Institute Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems, February 2001


Is it fair that we live in a world where people are dying every 3 seconds from starvation? Where children are dying from diseases given to them simply because they don’t have any clean water? Whilst the West continues to speed ahead, leaving half the world choking on the thick black smoke of inequality it leaves behind.


Some may feel that at least it is a lot better than it used to be, it may look like that, and for sure most westerners are no longer living in the squalid conditions of the past. We imagine that the world has become a fairer place especially with globalisation. We convince ourselves that the gap between the rich and poor is getting slimmer. However when we are forced to face the facts it tells a completely different story.


  • In 1820 the wealth gap was 3 to 1
  • In 1913 – 11 to 1
  • In 1950 – 35 to 1
  • In 1973 – 44 to 1
  • In 1992 – 72 to 1
  • In 2009 – 120 to 1 (estimated)


It is clear that the crack is getting wider, causing more people to fall within the dark abyss of poverty. Every now and again we throw a safety ladder to them, but we don’t wait for them to catch it before ripping it away.


Looking at a map of the world there is a clear North-South divide with the exception of Australia and Japan. The North represents the wealthy and the South represents the poor. It is basically as if our world has been split, so the west can live with the wealthy and leave the poor in the South, far away from them, so they don’t have to face the gruesome truth.


Map depicting the North South divide, red being the southern LEDCs (less economically developed countries) and the blue being the western MEDCs (more economically developed countries).


You only have to look at some of the statistics to realise the extent of this divide. For example the combined wealth of the MEDCs accounts for around 70% of the world’s total wealth. Now if the MEDCs population were 70% of the world’s total population we would be living in a fair and equal world. However the MEDCs population accounts for only 20% of the world’s total.


Still not convinced? How about this? In the UK (an MEDC country) you can earn an average wage of about $40,000 per year. However in an LEDC country like Nigeria the average wage is just £2,500 per year. Bit of a difference…Okay so maybe you just don’t need so much money in Nigeria. But it means so much more than just money. In fact it is a question of life and death, because in the UK you can expect to live for a good 80 years. In Nigeria the average life expectancy is only 47! So you get to live for 33 years more on average if you happened to be born in Britain and not Nigeria. No wonder so many people want to come and live in our country!


The story behind the shocking inequality in our world begins throughout the 17-19th centuries when the rich and powerful empires divided up the less powerful southern continents, such as Africa. They successfully took over what is now the LEDCs using a technique known as ‘Divide and Conquer’ where they basically turned each local groups against each other so that the western nations could easily rule over them. When World War Two raised its ugly head the European Empires called upon their colonies to help them fight and successfully won the war over Germany and Japan. After the war, many of the colonies demanded their freedom as a reward for their efforts during the conflict.


However letting go of their empires would leave the rich countries with fewer resources, such as oil, diamonds, and gold, which were providing them with steady income, as well as supporting their ruler’s luxurious lifestyles.


Eventually though the empires were forced to give up their colonies as after the war many of them, such as Britain, were in a state of almost complete financial ruin and no longer had the power to keep control of the rebellious countries. The only way forward, as the MEDCs saw it, was to let the LEDCs have their independence, however they were to retain a powerful control over the resources and economy of the newly independent countries. They did this in a lot of devious ways, such as appointing pro-western ‘figureheads’, with western interests, to rule over the newly independent countries. These dictators were essentially puppets controlled by the west through things like bribes, allowing the West in some countries to not only remain financially in power but also politically, so basically nothing had really changed.


The main technique they employed was to offer the newly created, weak countries a massive loan, as they weren’t making enough income because the rich countries still had control over their resources. As a result the MEDCs offered them this loan under the disguise of ‘helping them out’.


However, as always, there was a catch. The MEDCs added to these loans ‘compound interest’ which is the main reason the LEDCs are kept in a horrific state of poverty. Compound interest means that the original interest put on the loan increases over time and is based upon the new not the old balance, for example a $1 trillion dollar loan can become an incredible $117 trillion dollars in just 50 years. Over the last 30 years the rich countries have lent the ‘third world’ countries a total of $540 billion dollars. So far the LEDCs have already paid back $550 billion, but they still need to pay a further $523 billion dollars. President Obasanjo explains Nigeria’s situation due to these unjust practices-


“All that we have borrowed up to 1885 was around $5 billion and we paid about $16 billion that we are still being told that we owe about $28 billion, that $28 billion came about because of the injustice in the foreign creditor’s interest rates. If you ask me what is the worst thing in the world I will say it is compound interest”


Now when the MEDCs take out loans from each other they do not have to pay ‘compound interest’ and instead only pay a flat interest rate of around 4%, very different from the conditions imposed upon the poorer countries. Conditions that are imposed upon the poor countries by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank. And guess who effectively runs those organizations? The top rich nations of course!


However the loans and the small amount of money gained from independent charities and the even smaller amount of ‘free’ money given to them by the rich countries often gets siphoned away from where it really needs to go, helping the poverty stricken areas and slums, improving health and educational services and instead goes to rich dictators and corrupt governments who spend it on the military and police, in an attempt to keep their power by force, as well as lavishly spending it on themselves.


And if that wasn’t all enough the LEDCs also have to cope with harsh trade laws, created by, yes you guessed it – the MEDCs. These laws are designed to further worsen the LEDC’s situation, and as always are made to the advantage of the rich. For example the LEDCs are not allowed to protect their markets and must allow complete free trade with other countries, and have hardly any trade unionists. To add to this they are only allowed to make products that have been given the okay by the World Bank and IMF. The West also told them that they have to cut back on health care and education in order to repay their debts. This imposed massive under funding of educational and health care services makes it almost impossible for LEDCs to develop and progress.


These trade laws result in the LEDC companies being unable to compete with the MEDC businesses, which have very different and lot more flexible trade laws, meaning that another precious source of money is lost. As a result the LEDCs end up begging the MEDC companies to set up factories in their countries, and even compete for the lowest health and safety regulations, and the least trade unions, to encourage the rich nations companies to come, further worsening the conditions for the people living there.  The huge, multi-billion dollar companies go to these poor countries, attracted by the absence of trade unionists and the cheap labour but most all of huge profits.


The LEDCs have essentially been forced into a corner by the MEDCs. The circle of poverty and suffering will only be broken by the MEDCs giving up their power and control over the LEDCs. However due to the unfortunate state of the world, and the greediness of the rich it seems unlikely, that if the world carries on as it is that things will ever change.


However we can start to make a difference! There are little things that you can do here and there to help. First of all, try and always buy Fair Trade products (this ensures that the people who made the product are paid a fair amount of money), spread the word of this article to your friends and their friends (the more people who know the better!).


It may seem like this world will never change but as Gandhi said – “You have to be the change you want to see in this world”, meaning if we all get together doing little things to help we can rise above the corruption of the MEDCs and create a world worth living in.