Oxfam urges an end to billionaire ‘bonanza’ and says millions are living in extreme poverty.

Olga Schmidskaya | moment | Getty Images

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a new billionaire has emerged every 30 hours, and nearly a million could drop. By 2022, there will be extreme poverty at about the same rate. This is a sober statistic recently released by Oxfam.

By March 2022, there will be 573 more billionaires worldwide than in 2020, when the pandemic began, the global charity said in a briefing released on Monday, the first day of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland. Oxfam said that equates to one new billionaire every 30 hours.

Moreover, it is estimated that by 2022, 263 million people could live in extreme poverty due to epidemics, growing global inequality and rising food prices exacerbated by the Ukraine war. Oxfam said that equates to nearly a million people every 33 hours.

The organization noted that the total value of billionaires stood at $12.7 trillion in March. In 2021, billionaire wealth will be equivalent to nearly 14% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Gabriela Bucher, managing director of Oxfam International, said billionaires had arrived at the Davos summit “to celebrate a massive surge in fortune.”

“The pandemic and now the sharp rise in food and energy prices has been a huge boon for them,” she said.

“Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now reversed, and millions of people simply face an unacceptable increase in the cost of surviving,” Bucher added.

plague windfall

Oxfam said the food and energy billionaire’s fortune has grown by $453 billion over the past two years, citing the surge in wealth in certain business sectors, equivalent to $1 billion in two days.

Food conglomerate Cargill, for example, is one of only four companies controlling more than 70% of the global agricultural market, Oxfam said. Owned by the Cargill family, the company posted net income of nearly $5 billion last year. This is the biggest profit in history. There are currently 12 billionaires in the Cargill family alone.

Meanwhile, Oxfam said the pandemic has created 40 new billionaires in the pharmaceutical sector. Billionaires are those who have benefited from the company’s monopoly on vaccines, therapeutics, tests, and personal protective equipment.

To combat further wealth inequality and support people with rising food and energy costs, Oxfam has recommended that the government impose a one-time solidarity tax on billionaires’ epidemic windfalls.

End of crisis exploitation?

The charity has also proposed that the government end the “crisis benefit” by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90% on windfalls created by large corporations across all sectors.

Oxfam has also proposed a permanent tax to curb the extreme wealth and monopoly and the higher carbon emissions the super-rich produce.

Annual property taxes, starting at 2% for millionaires and 5% for billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion annually. This will be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, create enough vaccines for the world’s population, and provide universal health and social protection for people living in low- and low-middle-income countries.

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