(Source: Frei Betto, Brazilian liberation theologian and Dominican friar; translation: Novena)

There is no lack of resources in the world; what is lacking is justice and, above all, sharing. The world’s GDP – the sum of goods and services produced in one year – is 85 trillion reais [€14.2 trillion]. If this value were divided by the world’s population, it would provide each family of four with a monthly income of R$15,000 [€2,500].

Therefore, the question arises: for what purpose are things produced? To meet the needs of the population or to make a profit?

Global inequality is scandalous. 1% of the world’s population has more wealth than the other 99%. And 26 families accumulate a fortune equal to the sum of the wealth of half the world’s population, or 3.8 billion people.

In Brazil, according to economist Ladislau Dowbor, six families accumulate more wealth than the 105 million Brazilians at the base of the social pyramid.

Today, tax havens hold in their coffers 20 trillion dollars from tax evasion, corruption and money laundering. That figure is equivalent to 200 times the 100 billion dollars that was decided were going to be allocated environmental policies at the Paris Conference [on Climate Change; COP 21] in 2015.

It is therefore necessary to move towards economic democracy. Political democracy in which, theoretically, everyone participates in the election of their leaders is not enough.

We should all enjoy the goods of the Earth and the fruits of human labour. And each family should be guaranteed a universal basic income. They all deserve free access to basic human rights such as food, health and education.

Those who think that this represents a cost are deceiving themselves. These are investments that significantly improve a society’s level of development and the quality of life of the population.

The challenge today is to perfect democracy. To improve it from being mere delegation to a democracy of participation in which citizens decide the destination of State resources through transparent systems for the management of those resources, which is something made possible by new technologies.

Taxation should be levied on financial flows in order to contain speculative capital.

Since 1995, Brazil has exempted the richest from paying taxes on profits and dividends, which is a scandalous injustice.

A profound reform of the financial system should result in stimulus to public and community banks, credit unions and virtual currencies.

Integrated local development planning would be needed so that each municipality could take charge of the sustainable management of natural resources and thus achieve economic, social and environmental balance.

[We must] Establish a knowledge economy, which, today, is the main factor of productivity. The whole pf society must have access to technological advances. It is necessary to review policies on patents, copyrights [and] royalties so as to unlock progress. And democratise the media, fight oligopolies and ensure society is well-informed.

According to Joseph Stiglitz, “for four decades, the prevailing doctrine in the United States has been that corporations should maximize shareholder value — meaning profits and share prices — here and now, come what may, regardless of the consequences to workers, customers, suppliers, and communities”.

It is this logic denounced by Stiglitz that generates social inequality and, consequently, all that implies exclusion and suffering for the majority of the world’s population.

More articles by Frei Betto, on Novena:

Liberation theologian deplores Church corruption of Bible into “religiosity of escape, not of militancy”

Thank you, George

Frei Betto, liberation theologian: “The Bible has a soul, a religious spirit, but it isn’t always right”

Liberation theologian says pandemic new ‘1984’: “Our fragile democratic institutions are under threat”

Good Friday meditation – Liberation theologian: “We have a wrong idea of ​​the presence of God among us”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.