The five richest men in the world have seen their wealth increase by 114 percent since 2020, from $405 billion to $869 billion (370 billion to approximately 794 billion euros). In the same time frame, 4.8 billion people became poorer. The NGO Oxfam calculated this in the Equality Foundation report published on Monday. The report is published at the beginning of the annual meeting of political and economic leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
According to Oxfam, these are the five richest men in the world (reference date November last year): Elon Musk (Tesla), Bernard Arnault and his family (LVMH), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway). ). ).
In addition to the massive increases in the assets of these five, the combined assets of all the world's billionaires also increased rapidly. They have seen their wealth increase by 34 percent since 2020, or $3,300 billion (€3,100 billion). The world's richest 1% now own 59% of all financial assets, such as stocks, bonds and savings.
Even in a Western country like ours, Oxfam still sees a lot of inequality: the richest 1% of the Belgian population owns a third of financial assets, and the richest 0.18% has more wealth than the poorest half.
In the run-up to the elections, the NGO is calling on the current and future government to “oblige companies to pay dividends to shareholders conditional on ensuring a decent income for all employees in all their value chains, and to mobilize ambitious resources to reduce carbon emissions.”
For Oxfam, the figures show a clear link between the rapidly increasing wealth of billionaires and the growing power of corporations and monopolies.
Corporate tax reduction
Oxfam also criticizes, among other things, the reduction of corporate taxes, which is seen as a pastime for employers. In our country, this tax was reduced in two stages from 33 to 25 percent in recent years. Many other countries have also reduced this tax.
At the international level, Oxfam finds even starker inequalities. For example, in seven of the ten largest companies in the world, the billionaire is the CEO or largest shareholder. In one year, the 148 largest companies with Oxfam data generated profits of $1,800 billion, well more than half the average profits in the period 2018-2021.
Oxfam cites several reasons behind the growing inequality. In this way, the largest companies in the world succeed in acquiring more and more other companies or capturing a large share of the market. This also increases their ability, for example, to increase prices without significant consequences for their competitive position. Consumers will feel those high prices in their wallets again.
“At the expense of society”
As far as Oxfam is concerned, the “inexhaustible wealth” that these companies generate for their owners comes “at the expense of society as a whole.” “They also have disproportionate economic power that undermines our democracies and rights. No company or individual should have so much power over our economies and lives.”
For Oxfam, the figures show a clear link between the rapidly increasing wealth of billionaires and the growing power of corporations and monopolies. The organization points, for example, to the significant market power enjoyed by technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. But pharmaceutical companies or seed sellers, for example, are increasingly clustered into a few very powerful players. Their profits then go to shareholders, at the expense of workers and ordinary people.
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