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Oxfam study reveals startling gap between the world's rich and poor

By Sheetal Sukhija, Bangkok News
23 Jan 2019, 03:33 GMT+10

LONDON, U.K. - The shocking gap between the rich and poor across the world was revealed in a new study published by Oxfam's Public Good or Private Wealth.

Highlighting the shocking state of global inequality, the study revealed that the world's richest 26 people own the same amount as half the global population.

The Oxfam report, which revealed the growing concentration of the worlds wealth, pointed out that billionaires across the world saw their wealth rocket by 700 billion pounds in 2018 while 3.8 billion people were forced to survive on less than 4.27 pounds a day each.

It noted that 2018 had been a year during which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer, highlighting that the widening gap was hindering the fight against poverty.

According to Oxfam, which released the wealth check to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900 billion in 2018 or $2.5 billion a day.

The development charity said that the 12 percent increase in the wealth of the very richest people in the world, contrasted with a fall of 11 percent in the wealth of the poorest half of the world's population.

It also stated that the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the worlds population dropped from 43 in 2017 to 26 in 2018.

The study found that a 1 percent wealth tax would raise an estimated 325 billion pounds ($418 billion) a year - which would be enough to educate every child that is currently not in school.

It would also provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths across the world.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Matthew Spencer, Director of Campaigns and Policy at Oxfam, said, "The massive fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty is one of the greatest achievements of the past quarter of a century but rising inequality is jeopardizing further progress."

Spencer added, "The way our economies are organized means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting."

He said, "Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor. There is enough wealth to give everyone a fair chance in life. Governments should ensure taxes raised from wealth and businesses paying their fair share are used to fund free, quality public services."

He further noted, "It doesnt have to be this way there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life. Governments should act to ensure that taxes raised from wealth and businesses paying their fair share are used to fund free, good-quality public services that can save and transform peoples lives."

In the study, Oxfam recommended including universal free healthcare and called for an end to 'under-taxation.'

It has called for policies to halt gender inequality and has sought the implementation of 1 percent wealth tax.

Oxfam claimed that forcing the top 1 percent to pay an extra 0.5 percent tax would raise an estimated 324.6 billion pounds per year worldwide.

However, Kate Andrews, associate director at the IoEA criticized the report and said that inequality and poverty are "wholly different issues" with "radically different antidotes."

Andrews added, "Capitalism has the best track record for lifting people out of poverty. The past few decades alone have seen hundreds of millions of people benefit. Demonizing capitalism might be a fashionable activity for the affluent but it would be a travesty, especially for the poor, if calls to overthrow it were allowed to succeed."

The World Inequality Report for 2019 was co-authored by Piketty and Oxfam said that its methodology for assessing the gap between rich and poor was based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse global wealth data book.

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