The widening of the income gap between the rich and the poor has accelerated during the pandemic, with the world’s ten richest people doubling their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion during the first two years of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Oxfam International. 

In contrast, the incomes of 99 percent of the world’s population fell during the same period, with more than 160 million people forced into poverty. 

Oxfam International published its analysis in a new briefing on Monday, ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, to highlight how billionaires’ fortunes have multiplied since the pandemic started and address the widening income gap. 

Oxfam noted that a new billionaire is minted every 26 hours and their wealth has risen more since COVID-19 began, partly because those with deep pockets have benefited from the trillions of dollars pumped by governments into the financial markets to save the economy. 

“Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. The result is that every kind of inequality imaginable risks rising,” said Oxfam International’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher. 

The ten richest 

According to data from Forbes, the ten richest people on earth as of November 2021 are Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergery Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffet. Their fortunes expanded by $821 billion since March 2020. 

“If these men were to lose 99.999 percent of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99 percent of all the people on this planet,” said Bucher. 

“They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people.”

Bucher pointed out that it’s high time governments must take actions to correct the “obscene inequality” through taxation and more meaningful investments. 

Oxfam recommended that governments urgently: 

  • Claw back the gains made by billionaires by taxing the huge wealth made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes. 
  • Invest the trillions that could be raised by these taxes toward progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation and gender-based violence prevention and programming. 
  • Tackle sexist and raciest laws that discriminate women and racialised people and create new gender-equal laws to uproot violence and discrimination. 
  • End laws that undermine the rights of workers to unionise and strike and set up stronger legal standards to protect them. 
  • 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. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)

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