Some 263 million more people will fall into extreme poverty this year, as a result of the cost of living rising faster than it has in decades, Oxfam has warned. That essentially means a million people every 33 hours.
While the pandemic created a new billionaire every 30 hours, an increasing number of people will be pushed into extreme poverty at almost the same rate, Oxfam’s brief “Profiting from Pain,” published ahead of the first World Economic Forum since the pandemic, highlighted.
“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them,” Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said.
“Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.”
Making money off workers’ backs
The world’s ten richest men own more wealth than the bottom 40% of humanity, 3.1 billion people.
After the pandemic — a “period during which billionaires enjoyed a huge boost to their fortunes”— the soaring cost of essential goods is now resulting in billionaires in the food and energy sectors increasing their fortunes by $1 billion (€943 million) every two days.
Oxfam argues that they are not making this profit because “they are now smarter or working harder,” but because workers are “working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions.”
“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This is unconscionable. Some have grown rich by denying billions of people access to vaccines, others by exploiting rising food and energy prices,” said Bucher.
She stressed that, in stark contrast with this situation, “millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive.”
Tax the rich to help the poor
Oxfam is urging governments to act swiftly by introducing various measures, including one-off “solidarity taxes” on billionaires’ windfalls from the pandemic, and permanent wealth taxes to help support people facing financial difficulties.
Belgium is already discussing taxing wealthy Belgian individuals and companies as part of a plan to counteract the rising cost of living.
During the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Sunday, one group of millionaires joined protests the gathering and demanded that governments support taxing the rich to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor.
“It’s outrageous that our political leaders listen to those who have the most, know the least about the economic impact of this crisis, and many of whom pay infamously little in taxes. The only credible outcome from this conference is to tax the richest and tax us now,” Phil White, a former consultant and member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, said.
Oxfam also called on governments to end crisis profiteering by introducing a cap on the profits that big corporations can make. It