Wednesday 21 January 2015

World's richest 1 per cent will own more than the rest by 2016: Oxfam

Rich face pressure to curb rising inequality
Study finds that richest 1% are set to control over half of globe's wealth
The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

LONDON - Billionaires and politicians gathering in Davos this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that the richest 1 per cent are likely to control more than half of the globe's total wealth by next year.

The study warning about deepening global inequality was released by anti-poverty charity Oxfam yesterday and comes just as the business elite prepare to meet at the World Economic Forum in the ski-resort city of Davos in Switzerland.

"The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast," Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said.

Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the Davos gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor, The Guardian reported.

The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own US$1.9 trillion (S$2.5 trillion), the report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world's income scale. (Last year, it took 85 billionaires to equal that figure.)

Their share of global wealth increased from 44 per cent in 2009 to 48 per cent in 2014, the British charity said in a report, adding that it will be more than 50 per cent in 2016. The average wealth per adult in this group is US$2.7 billion, said the study which uses data from Credit Suisse's global wealth report and the Forbes billionaires list. The type of inequality that currently characterises the world's economies is unlike anything seen in recent years, the report explained.

There was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests, Oxfam study said. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.

Investors with interests in finance, insurance and health saw the biggest windfalls, Oxfam said. Using data from Forbes magazine's list of billionaires, it said those listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and health-care industries saw their net worth jump by 47 per cent, The New York Times reported.

Ms Byanyima said in a statement that more than one billion people lived on less than US$1.25 a day. "Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 per cent own more than the rest of us combined?" Ms Byanyima asked.

Oxfam, which has been invited to the Davos forum, said it was calling on governments to adopt a plan which includes clamping down on tax dodgers, investing in free public services like health and education, sharing tax burden fairly, introducing minimum wages and promoting economic policies to give women a fair deal.

"Extreme inequality is not just an accident or a natural rule of economics. It is the result of policies and with different policies it can be reduced," Ms Byanyima told The Guardian. "I am optimistic that there will be change."

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