World’s five richest men double their money as poorest get poorer

Oxfam predicts first trillionaire within a decade, with gap between rich and poor likely to increase

The world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes to $869bn (£681.5bn) since 2020, while the world’s poorest 60% – almost 5 billion people – have lost money.

The details come in a report by Oxfam as the world’s richest people gather from Monday in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum meeting of political leaders, corporate executives and the super-rich.

The yawning gap between rich and poor is likely to increase, the report says, and will lead to the world crowning its first trillionaire within a decade. At the same time, it warns, if current trends continue, world poverty will not be eradicated for another 229 years.

Highlighting a dramatic increase in inequality since the Covid pandemic, Oxfam said the world’s billionaires were $3.3tn (£2.6tn) richer than in 2020, and their wealth had grown three times faster than the rate of inflation.

The report, Inequality Inc., finds that seven out of 10 of the world’s biggest corporations have a billionaire as CEO or principal shareholder, despite stagnation in living standards for millions of workers around the world.

Compiled using data from the research company Wealth X and Forbes, it says the combined wealth of the top five richest people in the world – Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg – have increased by $464bn, or 114%. Over the same period, the total wealth of the poorest 4.77 billion people – making up 60% of the world population – has declined by 0.2% in real terms.

“People worldwide are working harder and longer hours, often for poverty wages in precarious and unsafe jobs,” the report says. “Across 52 countries, average real wages of nearly 800 million workers have fallen. These workers have lost a combined $1.5tn over the last two years, equivalent to 25 days of lost wages for each worker.”

Mirroring the fortunes of the super rich, it also says business profits have risen sharply despite pressure on households amid the cost of living crisis. It finds 148 of the world’s biggest corporations together raked in $1.8tn in total net profits in the year to June 2023, a 52% jump compared with average net profits in 2018-21.

Calling for a wealth tax to redress the balance between workers and super-rich company bosses and owners, the report says such a levy on British millionaires and billionaires could bring in £22bn for the exchequer each year, if applied at a rate of between 1% to 2% on net wealth above £10m.

Julia Davies, an investor and founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, a nonpartisan group of British millionaires campaigning for a wealth tax, said levies on wealth were “minuscule” compared with taxation on income from work.

“Just imagine what £22bn a year invested in public services and infrastructure could pay for; improving the lives of every one of us who live in the UK and providing our elderly, young and vulnerable with the care and support they need and deserve,” she said.

Oxfam said the most recent Gini index – which measures inequality – found that global income inequality was now comparable with that of South Africa, the country with the highest inequality in the world.

The world’s richest 1% own 59% of all global financial assets – including stocks, shares and bonds, plus stakes in privately held business. In the UK, the richest 1% own 36.5% of all financial assets, with a value of £1.8tn.

Aleema Shivji, Oxfam’s interim chief executive, said: “These extremes cannot be accepted as the new norm, the world can’t afford another decade of division. Extreme poverty in the poorest countries is still higher than it was pre-pandemic, yet a small number of super-rich men are racing to become the world’s first trillionaire within the next 10 years.

“This ever-widening gulf between the rich and the rest isn’t accidental, nor is it inevitable. Governments worldwide are making deliberate political choices that enable and encourage this distorted concentration of wealth, while hundreds of millions of people live in poverty. A fairer economy is possible, one that works for us all. What’s needed are concerted policies that deliver fairer taxation and support for everyone, not just the privileged.” TheGurdain

Fiscal Nepal |
Tuesday January 16, 2024, 10:01:43 AM |

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