KUALA LUMPUR (May 24): For every new billionaire created during the pandemic — one every 30 hours — nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate.
In a report titled “Profiting from Pain” published on Monday (May 23), Oxfam International said that during the first two years of the pandemic, a new billionaire was minted every 30 hours, with a total of 573 of the world’s richest becoming billionaires during that time frame.
Oxfam said it expects that this year that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.
It said billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of Covid-19 than in 23 years combined.
The charity said the total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9% of global GDP.
It said this is a three-fold increase (up from 4.4%) in 2000.
Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher said 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 privatisation and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments,” she said.
Bucher said that meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive.
“Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger.
“This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills,” she said.
Bucher said Oxfam’s new research also revealed 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.
She said the fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by US$453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to US$1 billion every two days.
She said five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making US$2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.