Many of us would realise or agree about the extreme suffering constituted by acts such as torture or from painful illness etc. However, do we understand the pain caused by insidious sufferings, such as poverty or having to live under inhumane conditions, or having to spend all the earnings to live a barely civilized life?
The Maldives is portrayed as a geological marvel; a string of pearls across the Indian Ocean. A country with white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, tranquil lagoons, tropical weather – a country that any tourist would want to spend their holidays or honeymoon at. There is no contestation against this dreamy description of the Maldives. This natural beauty is what made Maldives an infamous tourist destination, and this natural beauty is what enabled the tourism sector to be the number one contributor to the Maldives’ economy. However, an ever important question needs to be asked – who benefits from this?
The response to this questions perhaps is simple. The satisfaction of the natural beauty of Maldives, particularly that of resort islands is enjoyed by tourists who spend huge amount of money to enjoy such luxury. A luxury that the working class Maldivian can only dream of. The economic benefit of the resorts ends up in the deep pockets of the resort owners, once again a pocket that the working class Maldivian cannot reach, for multiple reasons including the lack of adequate policies with regard to resource distribution among others.
The life of the working class on the other hand is like life in a war. Wake up in the morning, observe a young widow taking care of her four children, the daily routine of going to a job that pays a penny a month when the monthly rent of the room is a dollar; the single room in which the whole immediate and extended family lives in. When tourists visit the Maldives to see the natural beauty, a beauty well preserved and well managed, the working class gets to ‘enjoy’ an artificial beach. Her four children go to a public school while the resort owner’s kids go to privileged international school either within the country or abroad.
When the human suffering as a result of violence or a disease is reported, the suffering of having to live in this unholy situation is not effectively conveyed by statistics of graphs. Furthermore, within our struggles for political freedoms, and democratisation, such pain is often a silent murmur, that is regarded as to be addressed once political chaos and turmoil is over. The relevance of this situation to politics, and the relevance of politics to economy is often unspoken about, at least in-depth. How do political candidates get elected, and how much money do they require to spend to run for and win an election? The numbers are clear; a study conducted in the Maldives shows that 1 in 3 people are offered money of gifts in return of a vote. It is suggested that a candidate, particularly during parliamentary elections, spend more than the salary they would acquire during their tenure as a member of the parliament.
The question often undiscussed is where do they get funding from, and how do they recover the ‘loss’? Furthermore, can the winning candidates be free of influence from their donors, when addressing legislations that would hurt the interests of their donors? A member of the parliament who got funding from a resort owner is less likely to support income tax legislations, or adequate resource distribution legislations. What this points towards is that the citizens, the working class are not running the country. The concept of “one citizen, one vote” becomes a façade overshadowing the reality that it is the wealthy elites that are running the country.
Capitalism should be questioned exactly for this reason. The wealthy elites have achieved disproportional power to influence legislations through funding corrupt politicians, achieved this economic superiority through a capitalist economic system. The question I leave you with is, can introducing more progressive tax systems, or by raising minimum wage of the workers, or by closing tax loop holes, can democracy and capitalism co-exist? Or will the current status quo even make it possible for such legislative changes, and so do we require a more left approach of democratic socialism?