A new report by Oxfam, the UK-based charity, says wealth inequality increased as a new billionaire was created every 30 hours in the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the same period, a million people slipped into absolute poverty – earning less than $1.90 a day – at nearly the same rate, every 33 hours, the group said.
The ‘Profiting From Pain’ report was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday. It said steep increases in the price of food, energy and commodities over the past two years had greatly aggravated global wealth inequality.
How many billionaires are there in the world?
The world now has 2,668 billionaires – 573 more than in 2020 – and they own $12.7 trillion, an increase of $3.78 trillion in just two years, it said.
And the world’s ten richest men now own more wealth than the bottom 40% of humanity, some 3.1 billion people, the report said.
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The war in Ukraine had made things worse by causing a ‘giant leap’ in food prices and that had further enriched people who control food companies, such as more members of the Cargill family, who control ownership of one of the world’s largest food firms.
Now 12 members of the Cargill family were billionaires, it said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that Russia has blocked the embattled country from exporting 22 million tons of food products.
But while the pandemic helped 573 people become billionaires, vast numbers were struggling to feed themselves and the poverty level increasing, the report said.
“Decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” Gabriela Bucher, the executive director of Oxfam International, said.
Oxfam said its research revealed that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors – “where monopolies are especially common” – are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid Covid-19.
‘Rein in Extreme Wealth’
It wants governments around the world to introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, saying a 2% tax on millionaires and 4% tax on billionaires could generate $2.5 trillion – “enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty”.
Such a move would “deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries,” it said.
Argentina, it said, had adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the millionaire’s tax and was considering a windfall tax on energy profits.
• Jim Pollard
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