358 people own half the world

The United Nations Human Development Report 1996 revealed that the gap between rich and poor is now so great that the world's 358 wealthiest people have assets equal to the combined income of 2.3 billion people, just under half the global population.

This is not a simple divison between the 'first' and 'third' world according to the report. In Britain and America the income of the poorest 20 per cent are less than a quarter of the national average. In America the poorest 20 per cent live on Str3,700 a year compared with a national average of Str15,600.

The gap between rich and poor in Britain and America is similar to that in Nigeria and Brazil.

In many countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, average income plummeted by at least a fifth between 1990 and 1993. Male life expectancy in many of these countries has declined: in Russia, by five years, according to some estimates