New billionaire every 30 hours during pandemic – Oxfam

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star
New billionaire every 30 hours during pandemic â Oxfam
In a report titled “Profiting from Pain,” Oxfam International found that during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new billionaire was created every 30 hours, with 573 of the world’s richest becoming billionaires during that time frame.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — With the cost of essential goods increasing faster than it has in decades, billionaires in the food and energy sectors raised their fortunes by $1 billion every two days.

In a report titled “Profiting from Pain,” Oxfam International found that during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new billionaire was created every 30 hours, with 573 of the world’s richest becoming billionaires during that time frame.

And for every new billionaire created during the pandemic, Oxfam expects nearly a million people to fall into extreme poverty this year.

The report was issued as the World Economic Forum, the exclusive get-together of the global elite in Davos, that started on May 22 face-to-face for the first time since COVID-19. The forum ends on May 26.

“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.”

Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said the decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are “facing impossible increases in the cost of staying alive.”

The report showed that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours.

“We expect this year that 263 million people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours,” Bucher said.

Oxfam Philippines director Lot Felizco said the impact of the pandemic is already being felt by countries such as the Philippines, which saw an increase in self-rated poverty based on the latest results of the Social Weather Stations survey.

“It is very alarming to learn from the Oxfam International report that there are those who are profiting from this crisis when so many ordinary people are suffering from poverty and hunger. These are the same people – workers and farmers – who serve as the backbone of our economy,” Felizco said.

Billionaires’ wealth increased further in the first 24 months of the pandemic than in 23 years combined, according to the report.

The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global Gross Domestic Product, for a three-fold increase 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.

Bucher said 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,” Bucher said. “Millions of people are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive.”

Oxfam’s research also showed that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors 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 increased by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days.

The pandemic has also created 40 new billionaires in the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmaceutical corporations such as Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccines, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments.

These companies are charging governments up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production, according to 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,” Bucher said.


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