UNDP ranks Sri Lanka among South Asia’s top wealth inequality nations
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): A United Nations Development Programme Regional Human Development report has pointed out that the countries exhibiting the highest wealth inequality in South Asia, as measured by the wealth share of the top 10 percent, include Sri Lanka.
The United Nations Development Programme Regional Human Development report, using data tracked by the World Inequality Database showed that Asia and the Pacific have some of the biggest gaps between the rich and the poor in the world.
The UNDP report highlighted that inequality remains deeply entrenched – the richest 10 percent consistently command over half of total income, and in South Asia in particular, income inequality has been worsening.
There are persistent inequalities in the distribution of wealth, especially in South-East Asia and South Asia, with the highest wealth inequality observed in China, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
It added, “human development progress overall has been very uneven.”The report highlighted that “inequality is further exacerbated by corruption, and weak tax policy and administration, as well as by the lack of effective social safety nets.”
Crumbly and uneven economic recovery has further exacerbated income and wealth inequalities in the country, placing Sri Lanka among the top five most unequal countries in the Asia Pacific, according to UNDP.
In the context of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, multiple assessments and simulations speculate that previous poverty reduction gains may now be lost,” said Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara, Country Economist from the UNDP Policy and Engagement Team.
Even before the economic crisis, the country was grappling with prevalent disparities and enduring structural exclusions, including entrenched inequality, gender biases, and a sizable informal sector.
These challenges were further exacerbated by the pandemic and economic crisis, compounded by rising inflation resulting from geopolitical conflicts.
On top of this, the region and Sri Lanka are facing a triple planetary crisis— climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, which are hitting the most vulnerable populations the hardest.
Dr.Gunasekara highlighted that high income and wealth inequalities, which remain persistent, specially after the pandemic and economic crisis, are major concerns for the country.
“Sri Lanka is a country with fairly high income inequality; we are in the top one third of the highest unequal countries in the world, and wealth inequality is also very high.
For example, the top one percent of Sri Lankans own 31 percent of the total personal wealth in the country, while the bottom 50 percent only owns less than 4 percent of the overall wealth in the country. This provides us with a snapshot of how unequal our country is,” she noted.