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A new report from anti-poverty charity Oxfam has determined that the world’s top ten richest people could use the money they gained during the coronavirus pandemic to fund vaccines for everyone on Earth.
Oxfam’s The Inequality Virus report calls for the world’s richest earners such as such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to be subject to higher taxes.
The charity has calculated that the world’s 10 wealthiest increased their wealth by a collective $540bn (£400bn) from mid-March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, to the end of the year.
This money alone is more than enough to pay not only for a vaccine for everyone on the planet, but also to reverse the rise in poverty caused by coronavirus, Oxfam claims.
The Inequality Virus says the impacts of coronavirus could increase economic inequality in almost every country at once for the first time since records began.
Oxfam argues that support for the world’s poorest is being squeezed, threatening a ‘lost decade in the fight against poverty’, while a ‘rigged’ economy is allowing the ‘super-rich elite’ to continue increasing their wealth despite being in the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930s.
The report points out that the stock market collapsed at the start of the outbreak last spring, but the wealth of 1,000 of the world’s billionaires returned to record highs as it rebounded.
Discussing the findings, Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB’s chief executive, commented:
Billions of people were living on the edge when the pandemic began and had no resources or support to weather this fierce storm.
At the same time, a tiny number of individuals have pocketed more money in nine months than they could spend in a lifetime.
These facts are shameful. Governments must act. Fair taxation on the very richest could help with the global recovery, raise more money to fight poverty and help shape more equal societies.
The report claims that half a billion more people could be living in poverty by 2030 in comparison to the start of the pandemic, living on less than £4 per day, unless rising inequality is tackled.
Health chiefs in South Africa have said they will be forced to buy doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at nearly 2.5 times the price most European countries will pay due to the inequalities.
As well as subjecting the world’s richest to higher taxes, Oxfam also calls for a temporary tax on ‘excess’ profits made by the 32 global corporations that have gained the most money in the past year.
The charity states that this tax could have raised ‘£76 billion in 2020’ – enough to provide ‘unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low- and middle-income countries.’
The report adds:
Such taxes are practical and necessary. In December, Argentina passed a one-time levy on the super-rich to help pay for Covid-19 measures, including the purchase of medical supplies and aid for struggling small and medium-sized businesses.
Mark Littlewood, director-general at free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, has hit back at the report, arguing Oxfam’s proposals showed ‘a fundamental misunderstanding’ of both economics and poverty relief, The Independent reports.
He claimed that while taxing the rich ‘may make for good headlines’, the move would mislead the public into thinking the wealth taken from the top would ‘automatically lead to more wealth at the bottom.’
The report was published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s talks at Davos today, January 25.
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