The World Bank's Jürgen Zattler speaks with DW on how the media can do better in bridging the inequality gap.
Jürgen Zattler speaks out about the media’s role in contributing to the widening gap between rich and poor, and how the media can do better in holding the world’s rich and powerful to account. Zattler is a development and macro-economist with over 30 years of experience in economic policy-making. He is currently the World Bank Group Executive Director representing Germany, and will be speaking at the 2018 Global Media Forum.
How do the media contribute to fostering inequalities? What are the media's shortcomings?
In general, the media do not cover economic issues well. The issues are sometimes complex and counter-intuitive – for example, the concept of savings in a macroeconomic context is rather different than if one looks at savings from an individual or family perspective. This is in particular true for Germany.
Regarding inequality, the media in Germany have not taken up the issue in a comprehensive way; the debate is rather superficial. For example, that inequality is not only a question of justice and morality, but it is an economic issue which impacts economic growth. The point regarding the media’s role is therefore not a lack of advocacy for more equality; it is the lack of in-depth and informed discussion of the issue, including its complex economic implications.
How can we see globalization as a positive force in holding the powerful to account, as in the case of the Panama Papers, for example?
Globalization has brought many benefits for the various countries and societies. However, in the past economists and also media have underestimated how globalization impacts differently on the various social groups within a country. For example, migration or offshoring might have put pressure on wages of unskilled labor. Therefore, again, we need a more in-depth discussion on these issues. And the media could set the tone here.
Besides, the media and civil society can play an important role in making transparent unfair and illegal international practices, as seen in the context of the Panama Papers. There might be many other areas, apart from tax issues, such as the role of “big data”, where big internet firms hold a monopoly. One issue is that the benefits of gathering data from the people are accruing essentially to those firms. Had the data of private people been sold to those firms, the benefits would more equally spread.