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World's ten richest men doubled their wealth during Covid, report finds

It also found that the wealth of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by 58% to €49.7 billion since the start of the pandemic.

Image: Shutterstock/chrisdorney

THE WORLD’S TEN wealthiest men doubled their fortunes during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic as poverty and inequality soared, a report has said today, ahead of the opening of the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda.

Oxfam said the men’s wealth jumped from $700 billion (€612 billion) to $1.5 trillion (€1.3 trillion), at an average rate of $1.3 billion (€1.1 billion) per day, in a briefing published before a virtual mini-summit of world leaders being held under the auspices of the World Economic Forum.

A confederation of charities that focus on alleviating global poverty, Oxfam said the billionaires’ wealth rose more during the pandemic more than it did the previous 14 years, when the world economy was suffering the worst recession since the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

It called this inequality “economic violence” and said inequality is contributing to the death of 21,000 people every day due to a lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate change.

The pandemic has plunged 160 million people into poverty, the charity added, with non-white ethnic minorities and women bearing the brunt of the impact as inequality soared.

According to Oxfam Ireland, developing countries have been denied access to sufficient vaccines because of rich governments’ protection of pharmaceutical corporations’ monopolies. This has forced them to slash social spending as their debt levels spiral and now face the prospect of austerity measures.

It said the proportion of people with Covid-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that in wealthy countries.

The report follows a December 2021 study by the group which found that the share of global wealth of the world’s richest people soared at a record pace during the pandemic.

Irish billionaires

The report also found that the wealth of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by €18.3 billion (58%) to €49.7 billion since the start of the pandemic.

 Oxfam Ireland has called for extreme wealth in Ireland and around the world to be subject to a wealth tax to help fund the recovery from the pandemic.

The group’s estimates show that a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue. A 1.5% wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7 billion.

Commenting on the report, Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken said: “Central banks pumped trillions of euros into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom.”

“Now is the time to redress that imbalance through progressive wealth taxes, along with other progressive measures such as debt relief and cancellation. Within the EU, the Irish Government could lead by example by introducing a wealth tax of 1.5% on the very wealthiest which would have a positive effect on Ireland’s society as it recovers from the pandemic,” he said.

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He added that it is right that we should ask those that have gained most from the pandemic to contribute to the recovery.

The funds generated by a wealth tax could have a transformative effect on funding Ireland’s recovery from the pandemic and could be targeted at those areas most in need – homeless people and people trapped in the increasing poverty trap of private rental accommodation, especially lone parents. It could be used to modernise our struggling health system and fund a just transition to a zero-carbon society.
It would also enable Ireland to meet our long-standing commitment to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on overseas development assistance.

Oxfam said tax reforms could be used to fund worldwide vaccine production as well as healthcare, climate adaptation and gender-based violence reduction to help save lives.

The group said it based its wealth calculations on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available, and used the 2021 Billionaires List compiled by the US business magazine Forbes.

Forbes currently lists the world’s richest man as Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who’s net worth stands at $268.1 billion (€234.5 billion), followed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at $188 billion (€164.4 billion).

Third on the list are Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who’s wealth is put at $186.5 billion (€163.1 billion), followed by Bill Gates at $134.5 billion (€117.7).

The other names on the list are Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, US investor Warren Buffet and the head of the French luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault.

With reporting from © AFP 2022.

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Jane Moore

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