The ravages of hurricane Irma are huge and barely imaginable, as islands like Antigua and Barbuda have been destroyed by more than 90%. Nowadays, alas, inequalities can take on multiple forms. Like poor allocation of resources, constantly depreciating income from work, precarious employment, the dismantling of the State leaving the poor with no protection, and now the form which we already knew of but is now exploding into the open: geographical inequality.
Isn’t there as much difference between the high and low incomes in one city (like Paris, London or New York) as there is between those of France and certain countries of Africa, Asia or Latin America? A natural disaster occurring in these regions and poor countries therefore turns into a socio-economic and humanitarian catastrophe. Exactly like a banking crisis ravages the middle and working classes whose options are much more limited than the globalised wealthy. So welcome to the era of spatial inequality, where natural disasters will affect you differently according to the social class you belong to! It indeed goes without saying that a Parisian or a New Yorker who has many resources and possibilities at hand would suffer less from a natural event of Irma’s stature than an inhabitant of the Caribbean in precarious living conditions. The inequalities are therefore not borne from income, wealth, luck and opportunity, employment or health. It is also your social status and financial comfort that determine your ability to overcome – or not – a natural disaster.
A radical overhaul is now being imposed on the stricken Caribbean islands that lay in ruin, as they will have to allocate a large part of their tourism-generated profits to development. On the condition that the ever-present corruption in many of these countries is stymied, these resources will have to be reinvested to benefit their population in health, education and infrastructure. It is, however, a different kind of “tourism” which will have to be heavily sanctioned, namely tax evasion, which doesn’t just harm the nations where these fraudsters or tax exiles come from.
The peoples of these Caribbean islands are in fact the first to pay a hefty toll since the lack of taxation in place in their own country is drying up accounts and public funds, and of course prevents any spending on long-term development. Contrary to what one might imagine, these tax havens are often hell for local populations… These Caribbean islands must therefore as a matter of urgency carry out a complete reform of their system so as to no longer leech off their citizens and the citizens of many Western countries who have been hurt by tax evasion. As for these companies and private fortunes that profit handsomely from the advantages offered by these tax havens, without ever contributing to the development of any country having offered them this fiscal asylum, will they soothe their conscience by appearing generous in the reconstruction of these Irma-ravaged islands? Or will they content themselves with strutting around on Twitter like Richard Branson, who bragged about seeing out the hurricane in his wine cellar?