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The world’s ten richest men own more wealth than 3 billion people
by Gabriela Bucher
Executive Director of Oxfam International
As the cost of essential goods rises faster than it has in decades, billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion every two days.
For every new billionaire created during the pandemic — one every 30 hours — nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate, reveals a new Oxfam brief today. “Profiting from Pain” is published as the World Economic Forum — the exclusive get-together of the global elite in Davos — takes place for the first time face-to-face since COVID-19, a period during which billionaires have enjoyed a huge boost to their fortunes.
“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
The brief shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours. We expect this year that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.
Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP. This is a three-fold increase (up from 4.4 percent) in 2000.
“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. 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,” said Bucher.
“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills.”
Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19. The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.
Together with just three other companies, the Cargill family controls 70 percent of the global agricultural market. Last year Cargill made the biggest profit in its history ($5 billion in net income) and the company is expected to beat its record profit again in 2022. The Cargill family alone now has 12 billionaires, up from eight before the pandemic.
From Sri Lanka to Sudan, record-high global food prices are sparking social and political upheaval. 60 percent of low-income countries are on the brink of debt distress. While inflation is rising everywhere, price hikes are particularly devastating for low-wage workers whose health and livelihoods were already most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly women, racialized and marginalized people. People in poorer countries spend more than twice as much of their income on food than those in rich countries.
Today, 2,668 billionaires — 573 more than in 2020 — own $12.7 trillion, an increase of $3.78 trillion.
The world’s ten richest men own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of humanity, 3.1 billion people. The richest 20 billionaires are worth more than the entire GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa.
A worker in the bottom 50 percent would have to work for 112 years to earn what a person in the top 1 percent gets in a single year. High informality and overload due to care tasks have kept 4 million women in Latin America and the Caribbean out of the workforce. Half of working women of color in the US earn less than $15 an hour.
The pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires. Pharmaceutical corporations like Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second just from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments. They are charging governments up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production. 87 percent of people in low-income countries have still not been fully vaccinated.
“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This is unconscionable. Some have grown rich by denying billions of people access to vaccines, others by exploiting rising food and energy prices. They are paying out massive bonuses and dividends while paying as little tax as possible. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do,” said Bucher.
“Over two years since the pandemic began, after more than 20 million estimated deaths from COVID-19 and widespread economic destruction, government leaders in Davos face a choice: act as proxies for the billionaire class who plunder their economies, or take bold steps to act in the interests of their great majorities. One common economic sense measure above all will put this to the test: whether governments will finally tax billionaire wealth”.
Oxfam recommends that governments urgently:
Introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ and is now considering introducing a windfall tax on energy profits as well as a tax on undeclared assets held overseas to repay IMF debt. The super-rich have stashed nearly $8 trillion in tax havens.
End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020.
Introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, as well as the outsized carbon emissions of the super-rich. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries.
http://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/pandemic-creates-new-billionaire-every-30-hours-now-million-people-could-fall http://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/g7-must-pursue-windfall-taxes-excess-corporate-pandemic-profits-and-cancel-poor http://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/g7-summit-media-brief http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/story/nearly-193-million-people-face-life-threatening-hunger http://static.hungermapdata.org/insight-reports/latest/global-summary.pdf
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We need solutions now to address global food insecurity and prevent future food crises
by Humanitarian and development agencies
17 May 2022
Joint statement: Action Against Hunger USA, Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, CARE, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, ChildFund Alliance, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Danish Refugee Council, Global Communities, Handicap International - Humanity & Inclusion, Helping Hand for Relief and Development, IMPACT Initiatives, InterAction, International Rescue Committee, INTERSOS, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian People's Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, People in Need, Plan International, Polish Humanitarian Action - Polska Akcja Humanitarna, Refugees International, Save the Children, Solidarités International, Welthungerhilfe, Women for Women International, Women's Refugee Commission, World Vision.
This week, Government representatives will hold meetings at the United Nations focused on the global hunger crisis in two events: a ministerial-level meeting on May 18 and a Security Council debate on May 19. The overarching aim of these events is to catalyze action on global food security and resilience, focusing on the critical links between conflict and hunger, including the impacts of the war in Ukraine.
As humanitarian and development organizations working around the world to prevent and respond to unprecedented levels of food insecurity and the imminent threat of famine we face today, we welcome the focus on this urgent crisis. We urge governments to seize this opportunity to make concrete and substantial commitments to address the needs of people experiencing hunger.
Global food security has steadily worsened over the past several years. According to the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises, nearly 193 million people experienced crisis level or worse food insecurity in 2021, an increase of almost 40 million over the previous record in 2020. The negative food security outlook is projected to continue or worsen this year, and the global food systems impact of the crisis in Ukraine will only contribute to further decline.
The global hunger crisis is felt most by vulnerable and marginalized people with limited capacity to absorb additional shocks. This includes women and girls who, despite the key role they play in producing and preparing food, often eat last and least during times of acute food insecurity, are at higher risk of experiencing gender-based violence and various forms of exploitation and abuse, and are frequently excluded from conversations about how to address food insecurity.
Food insecurity and malnutrition also has a devastating impact on children, exposing them to immediate and life-long cognitive and developmental impacts, weakening their immune system, and leading to negative household coping strategies like child labor, withdrawal of children from school, and gender-based violence, including child marriage and other forms of violence against children.
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and resulting disruption to food, fuel, and fertilizer markets has exacerbated an existing food crisis driven by conflict, climatic shocks, COVID-19, and economic pressures, particularly in contexts already experiencing humanitarian crises.
In order to pull people back from the brink of starvation, create sustainable food systems, and prevent future food crises, we need comprehensive solutions that address the myriad drivers and impacts of food insecurity.
Global humanitarian funding to prevent and respond to food insecurity is critical, and the international community must see this moment as a tipping point to avert catastrophe.
However, emergency aid alone is not enough to end this crisis. Donors must get better at leveraging longer-term funding mechanisms to get ahead of rising global hunger levels and promote resilience.
States must also engage in concerted diplomacy and cooperation to put forward rights-based trade, economic, climate, food systems, and social protection policies, and avoid restrictive trade measures that threaten to plunge millions more people into acute food insecurity.
In support of this, state, donor, multilateral, and other stakeholders seeking to address global food security, including conflict-induced hunger, should take the following concrete steps:
First, prioritize inclusive diplomacy to address the root causes of food insecurity and support policy measures that protect poor and vulnerable people’s ability to access food and livelihoods.
This includes keeping ports and trade flows open, mitigating balance of payment pressures, investing in social protection and safety nets, and supporting domestic food production and equitable distribution of land which empowers small scale producers, including women.
It also requires upholding the protection of civilians and civilian objects during conflict and addressing the effects of climate change on food security by delivering on commitments to finance climate action from the Paris Agreement and operationalize the Santiago Network.
Second, protect and increase funding to respond to the short, medium, and long-term impacts of the food security crisis. Donors should increase assistance toward global humanitarian appeals, maintain Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments, and refrain from diverting aid from pre-existing crises to respond to new emergencies, including the Ukraine crisis and domestic refugee responses. Efforts should be made to direct aid to local organizations, including women-led organizations, that are already responding to hunger in their communities.
Additionally, donors should scale up predictable, multi-year funding for humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding programs to strengthen resilience, ensuring that funding and programs are cohesive, coordinated, and gender transformative.
Third, tailor food assistance modalities – including cash, vouchers, in-kind food assistance, and livelihoods and agricultural support – to each context.
While the overall goal of assistance is to immediately save lives, careful consideration of aid modalities can help to increase resilience to global market disruptions.
Donors should recognize that cash and vouchers can reach hungry people in crisis more quickly than commodity support in the short-term. Increasing support to small-scale farmers and sustainable agriculture practices, such as agroecology and renewable energy for agricultural production, is critical to increase livelihoods and help farmers cope with rising fuel prices and reduced access to fertilizers and other inputs.
Finally, the Security Council must address conflict-induced hunger by fully implementing UNSC Resolutions 2417 (2018) and 2573 (2021).
Monitoring and reporting on the risk of famine and food insecurity in countries with armed conflict should be more systematic, and swift follow-up action must be taken to hold perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law accountable.
Denial of access to deliver humanitarian assistance, the use of hunger as a weapon of war, and acts of violence that threaten or harm civilians or destroy critical civilian infrastructure, whether intentional or not, cannot be tolerated.
Member States, particularly donors, must strengthen their humanitarian diplomacy to prevent these violations of international humanitarian law and respond to such incidents when they occur.
We hope these critical meetings serve as a first step in a sustained global effort to address the drivers and humanitarian impact of the global hunger crisis. It is essential that the goodwill and commitments put forward this week are translated into immediate and sustained action.
We urge the U.S. government and other Member State participants to keep their attention on this crisis and promote accountability by identifying opportunities for continued high-level engagement and progress-tracking. The G7 Leaders’ Summit in June and the UN General Assembly in September are high visibility moments to galvanize this momentum into tangible outcomes.
The world cannot wait for a declaration of famine to act. By then, it will be too late. We urge the international community to put the full force of resources, diplomacy, and policy action behind preventing large-scale loss of life due to hunger and promoting lasting food security for millions of people around the globe.
http://www.care.org/news-and-stories/press-releases/we-need-solutions-now-to-address-global-food-insecurity-and-prevent-future-food-crises/ http://www.nrc.no/news/2022/may/joint-ngo-statement-on-global-food-security-and-conflict-induced-hunger http://reliefweb.int/report/world/global-report-food-crises-2022 http://www.fightfoodcrises.net/events/grfc-2022/en/ http://www.state.gov/chairs-statement-roadmap-for-global-food-security-call-to-action/ http://www.wfp.org/publications/unprecedented-needs-threaten-hunger-catastrophe-april-2022 http://static.hungermapdata.org/insight-reports/latest/global-summary.pdf http://www.fao.org/cfs/cfs-hlpe/news-archive/en/ http://ipes-food.org/pages/foodpricecrisis http://www.fian.org/en/press-release/article/ukraine-war-highlights-growing-global-food-crises-and-need-for-new-world-food-security-strategy-2951 http://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-food
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