The first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic saw incomes of 99% of humanity fall and over 16 crore people were forced into poverty even as the world’s ten richest men saw their fortune more than double to $1.5 trillion (over Rs. 111 lakh crore) at a rate of $1.3 billion (Rs. 9,000 crore) a day, a new Oxfam study showed on Monday.
The world’s ten richest men saw their fortunes grow at a rate of $15,000 per second during the first two years of the pandemic and if these ten men were to lose 99.999% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on this planet.
‘‘They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people,’’ said Oxfam International’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher. ‘‘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,’’ she said.
According to Oxfam, billionaires’ wealth has risen more since COVID-19 began than it has in the last 14 years. At USD 5 trillion, this is the biggest surge in billionaire wealth since records began.
A one-off 99% tax on the ten richest men’s pandemic windfalls, for example, could pay to make enough vaccines for the world; to provide universal healthcare and social protection, fund climate adaptation and reduce gender-based violence in over 80 countries, while still leaving these men $8 billion better off than they were before the pandemic.
‘‘Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom. Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people,’’ said the Study.
‘‘Rich governments must immediately waive intellectual property rules over COVID-19 vaccine technologies to allow more countries to produce safe and effective vaccines to usher in the end of the pandemic,’’ Oxfam said.
(The Hindu 17-01-22)