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NGOs Challenge SADC States on Extreme Inequality and Poverty

A latest report by a consortium of Non- Governmental Organisations says Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries need to act decisively against extreme inequality which has worsened in the region due to Covid 19, pushing millions into poverty.

According to a report released on Tuesday by Oxfam, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Development Finance International (DFI), the situation has forced countries embark on dangerous austerity path such as reducing social spending.

The report dubbed 'Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index' (CRI) indicates that the fifteen SADC member states lost about $80bn in 2020 due to lower-than-expected growth which is equivalent to around $220 for every SADC citizen.

Felix Ngosa, senior programme officer in Norwegian Church Aid, while indicating that 35.3 million people have lost jobs in 2020, suggests that if countries could act decisively now against inequality, with policies aimed to help support citizens with public services and support, the impact of the crisis could be reversed in just three years.

He said: "The poorest in our societies are bearing the brunt of Covid-19 and are now facing the extra cost of austerity policies. Governments have a choice and must act now to reverse damage of the pandemic, increase social spending and tackle the inequality crisis."

However, the report finds that SADC countries have responded with belt-tightening measures that are likely to do more harm to people than good.

According to Dailes Judge, Oxfam in Southern Africa Programme Director, Covid 19 has made a small group of people rich, while leaving a majority struggling to meet their most basic needs, such as quality education, healthcare and decent jobs.

“The findings of this analysis are shocking, but they confirm the reality of many countries in this natural resource-rich but poor and unequal region,” says Dailes Judge.

 “The inequalities in most countries in the region are major drivers of reduced economic growth and weakened essential services such as quality healthcare and education," he added.

The report says that many governments are still showing considerable commitment to fighting inequality but still nowhere near enough to offset the huge inequality produced by the market and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The combination of budget cuts, rising debt and a slow recovery due to global vaccine inequity risks raising the SADC inequality crisis to new heights.

“Recovering from the pandemic, however, offers SADC governments a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do what their citizens want – to increase taxes on the wealthy and large corporations, to boost public spending especially on healthcare, education and social protection, and to boost workers’ rights in order to tackle joblessness and precarious work. With external support, for instance through debt relief and aid, SADC governments could reduce inequality drastically and eliminate extreme poverty by 2030,” says Mathew Martin, Development Finance International Director.

Meanwhile, speaking to Zodiak Online on Tuesday, Minister of gender and social welfare spokesperson Fred Simwaka, says the report reflects the reality on the ground, saying "this is due to Covid 19 restrictions in movement that halted money circulation through business transactions for middle income earners and the poor".

The report shows that Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Tanzania were hardest hit, with over five million jobs lost in each country within the period.

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