Inequality is spiraling out of control, with the number of billionaires globally doubling since the financial crisis of 2009, while hundreds of millions of people live is destitution, starvation and despair, says charity Oxfam.
With the number of billionaires leaping to 1,646, the report says the benefits of post-crisis economic growth are not being shared by the vast majority of the world’s population.
The report – “Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality” – which is supported by Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-Prize winning economist, points out that since the financial crisis hit, one million mothers have lost their lives in childcare because they did not have access to basic health care.
In the world today, more than 57 million children receive no form of education.
According to the authors, the 85 wealthiest people in the world have the same net worth as the 50% poorest people in the world. To put that into perspective, they have the same net worth as the combined wealth of 3.525 billion people on the planet, i.e. each billionaire has the wealth of 41,470,588 people (from the poorest half of the world).
The richest 1% of the population owns 50% of all the world’s wealth, says the ‘Global Wealth Report 2014,’ published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.
The world’s billionaires saw their wealth grow by an incredible $668 million each day over the past 12 months.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where 358 million people live in extreme poverty, there are 16 billionaires.
“Inequality is one of the defining problems of our age. In a world where hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families, a small elite have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes.”
“The consequences of extreme inequality are harmful to everyone – it robs millions of people of better life chances and fuels crime, corruption and even violent conflict. Put simply, it is holding back efforts to end poverty.”
Oxfam is urging governments worldwide to Even it Up by taking action to give people a more equal chance. They need to implement policies that redistribute both power and wealth to make sure poor people benefit more directly.
Governments need to clamp down on tax dodgers, and target public expenditure on universal, free education and health.
If the world’s billionaires were taxed 1.5% of their wealth over $1 billion, at least $74 billion could be raised annually. This would be enough to “fill the annual gaps in funding needed to get every child into school and to deliver health services in the world’s poorest countries,” Oxfam says.
Mr. Haldane said:
“In highlighting the problem of inequality Oxfam not only speaks to the interests of the poorest people but also the wider collective interest: there is rising evidence that extreme inequality harms, durably and significantly, the stability of the financial system and growth in the economy. It slows development of the human, social and physical capital necessary for raising living standards and improving well-being. That penny is starting to drop among policymakers and politicians.”