Boon for some and bane for some, the pandemic, however did leave everyone with a story to tell. And now, as we gear towards “normal” leaving behind the “new normal,” here are facts that emerge on the economic front.
“Profiting from Pain” was tabled at the World Economic Forum. This four-day meet (May 22 to May 26), in person since COVID-19, is tagged as the world’s most exclusive gathering of the global elite in the Swiss mountain refuge, Davos. The international charity argued it was time to tax the wealthy to help the less fortunate.
The past two years saw billionaire wealth rise more than in the last 23 years combined. And yes, the pandemic created 573 new billionaires at the jet rate speed of one every 30 hours.
On the other hand, every 33 hours, nearly one million crashed into extreme poverty. It’s much expected as 125 million of jobs were lost in 2021. In East Africa, one person continues to die of hunger every minute. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now almost equal to 13.9% of global GDP — a three-fold jump from a mere 4.4% in 2000.
According to Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, the agency to have tabled a report on billionaire assets: “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.”
Most of this wealth increase came from the trillions of dollars that the governments injected into the world economy to tackle the pandemic and avoid an economic collapse. The side effect however was that it dramatically drove up asset prices, and with this the net worth of billionaires and the asset-owning classes. “They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments,” added Bucher.
Hunger deaths, missing meals and overdue bills await the poor. The income of the poor saw a steep decline of 40% during the pandemic, which was 6.7% lower than the pre-pandemic projections. According to Oxfam estimates, it would take 112 years for an average person in the bottom 50% to make equivalent to someone in the top 1% makes in a year. The richest 10 men have greater wealth than the poorest 40% of humanity combined. These billionaires are collectively worth $12.7 trillion – a real-term increase of $3.78 trillion (42%) during the pandemic, the report concluded.