The recently published Oxfam report shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours. 263 million more people are expected to crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours. Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP.
Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions. The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens—all with the complicity of governments’’, said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
Oxfam’s new research also reveals 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. The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, Total Energies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.
The pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires. Pharmaceutical corporations like Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second just from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments. They are charging governments up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do,’’ added Bucher. Oxfam added that an annual wealth tax on millionaires of two percent, and five percent for billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year. Such a wealth tax would help lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world and pay for universal health care for people in poorer countries, it said. (Source Oxfam 22-05-22 and NDTV 23-05-22)