The world’s 10 richest men doubled their fortunes during the COVID-19 pandemic as poverty and inequality soared, an Oxfam study revealed yesterday (January 17).
The charity, which is focused on combating global poverty, said the 10 wealthiest men’s fortunes skyrocketed collectively from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion (€1.314 trillion), at a rate of around $1.3 billion per day.
While the fortunes of the world’s billionaires have soared, the world’s poorest are facing even more dire circumstances.
“Over 160 million people are projected to have been pushed into poverty,” according to the paper “Inequality Kills,” published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting, which this year is being held online due to the ongoing pandemic.
Oxfam’s paper stated that increasing economic, gender and racial inequalities, as well as the disparity that exists between countries “are tearing our world apart.”
“This is not by chance, but choice: ‘economic violence’ is perpetrated when structural policy choices are made for the richest and most powerful people. This causes direct harm to us all, and to the poorest people, women and girls, and racialized groups most,” the paper’s authors continued.
“It has never been so important to start righting the violent wrongs of this obscene inequality by clawing back elites’ power and extreme wealth including through taxation -getting that money back into the real economy and to save lives,”OxfamInternational’s executive director Gabriela Bucher said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed openly both the motive of greed, and the opportunity by political and economic means, by which extreme inequality has become an instrument of economic violence,” Bucher added.
Although share prices dropped dramatically in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, central banks and governments across the globe soon implemented stimulus packages, giving them a renewed boost.
As interest rates were cut to record low levels and the supply of money grew massively through quantitative easing — the process whereby central banks buy up government bonds or financial assets such as stocks to put more money into economies to increase economic activity — stock markets soared.
In addition, tech corporations such as Amazon, Google and Facebook saw a huge increase in profits as ever more people worked from home and did their shopping online.
The authors of the paper called for curbs on extreme wealth via progressive taxation, proven inequality-busting measures, as well as a power shift in the economy and society.
Forbes listed the 10 richest men in the world as: Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, US investor Warren Buffet and the head of the French luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault.
Oxfam based its findings on the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report and the Forbes Billionaires List. The Forbes study uses the value of individuals’ assets including property, land and corporate shares minus debts to see what people have. Other forms of income are not part of the equation.
This methodology is also employed by Oxfam when determining global poverty levels. The methodology has come under fire in the past, with some critics arguing that it creates a questionable definition of who’s poor and who’s not.
One of the arguments posits that it is difficult to group the poverty level of a student who may have a high level of student loan debt with a low-income farmer in China.