People Own as Much as the Poorest 3.8 Billion


The report, released as the world's rich, famous and influential began arriving for the plush annual gathering at the luxury Swiss ski resort town, urged governments to "stop the race to the bottom" in taxing rich individuals and big corporations.

"Since the global economy collapsed, we have learned nothing-the number of billionaires has almost doubled, with a new billionaire being minted every other day", said Paul O'Brien, Oxfam America's Vice President for Policy and Campaigns. Just 1% of his total wealth is roughly equivalent to the health budget of Ethiopia, a country with a population of 105 million people, Oxfam said.

In 2018, billionaire fortunes grew by 12 percent - about $2.5 billion every day - as the world's 3.8 billion poorest people lost about 11 percent of their wealth, according to a report by Oxfam launched to coincide with this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The worldwide rights group's annual study, "Public Good or Private Wealth", also found that getting the world's richest 1% to pay a mere 0.5% extra tax on their wealth could raise more money than it would cost to educate all 262 million children that are out of school and provide life-saving healthcare to 3.3 million people. The bottom 60%, which makes up the majority of the population, holds just 4.8% of the national wealth.

India added 18 new billionaires a year ago, taking the total number of billionaires to 119, and their collective wealth rose to $440.1 billion, up from $325.5 billion in 2017.

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The centrist leader is hoping that the launch this week of a "grand national debate" on policy will mark a turning point. The grassroots protests started two months ago over fuel taxes but became a broader revolt against economic problems.

Analysts found that 3.4 billion people have barely escaped extreme poverty and are living on less than $5.50 a day while stressing the growing gap between rich and poor was undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies, and increasing public anger. It estimated that a 1% wealth tax would be enough to educate 262 million out of school children and to save 3.3 million lives. Meanwhile, in 2018 alone, India's 119 billionaires saw their wealth mushrooming by Rs 2,200 crore a day on average.

While billionaire wealth soars, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people, Oxfam said.

Wealth inequality around the world is "out of control" and affects women more, Oxfam has warned.

"The last ten years clearly shows that we have learned nothing", Paul O'Brien, Oxfam America's vice president for policy and campaigns, said in a January 20 statement. "While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care".

They also noted, however, tax rates for high incomes have fallen in wealthy countries over the past decades. The study cites evidence from more than 150 countries, rich and poor alike, spanning over three decades, proving that investment in health, education and social protection reduces the gap between rich and poor.