The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.
The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.
The group has called on world leaders to commit to reducing inequality to the levels it was at in 1990, and to curb income extremes on both sides of the spectrum.
The release of the report was timed to coincide with the holding of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.
The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.
“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. […] We’re anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.
‘Global new deal’
“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” said Jeremy Hobbs, an executive director at Oxfam.
“Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”
Hobbs said that “a global new deal” is required, encompassing a wide array of issues, from tax havens to employment laws, in order to address income inequality.
Closing tax havens, the group said, could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. According to Oxfam’s figures, as much as $32 trillion is currently stored in tax havens.
In a statement, Oxfam warned that “extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”