The world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes, surging from $405 billion to $869 billion since 2020, with accumulating wealth at an alarming rate of $14 million per hour, contrasting sharply with the increasing poverty faced by nearly five billion people.
Seven out of ten of the world’s largest corporations are led by billionaires as CEOs or principal shareholders. These corporate giants, collectively worth $10.2 trillion, surpass the combined GDPs of all countries in Africa and Latin America, said Oxfam said in a report titled “Inequality Inc.”
DECADE OF DIVISION: ECONOMIC SHOCKWAVES AND BILLIONAIRE BOOM
Oxfam International’s interim Executive Director, Amitabh Behar, notes the beginnings of a “decade of division” as billions bear the economic shockwaves of the pandemic, inflation, and war. The report underscores that inequality is not accidental but a deliberate result of the billionaire class prioritizing wealth accumulation at the expense of global prosperity.
SUPERCHARGED WEALTH SURGE: $3.3 TRILLION RICHER
In the past three years, extreme wealth has surged, with billionaires becoming $3.3 trillion richer than in 2020. Their wealth has grown three times faster than the rate of inflation, solidifying their financial supremacy. As global poverty persists, the report raises concerns about the widening wealth gap and the potential emergence of the world’s first trillionaire within a decade.
GLOBAL WEALTH DISPARITIES: NORTH VS. SOUTH
Despite representing only 21% of the global population, rich countries in the Global North own a staggering 69% of global wealth, housing 74% of the world’s billionaire wealth. The report emphasizes the disproportionate share ownership benefiting the wealthiest, with the top 1% owning 43% of all global financial assets.
CORPORATE PROFIT RECORDS: A PROFITABLE ERA FOR MAJOR FIRMS
148 of the world’s largest corporations are poised to break their annual profit records in 2023. Total net profits soared to $1.8 trillion in the year to June 2023, a 52% jump compared to average net profits from 2018 to 2021. The report exposes the disproportionate payouts to rich shareholders, emphasizing the inequality-generating machine of corporate power.
EXAMPLES OF WEALTH AND POWER: BERNARD ARNAULT AND ALIKO DANGOTE
The report highlights modern examples of wealth concentration, including Bernard Arnault, the world’s second richest man, presiding over LVMH and Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, holding a “near-monopoly” on cement in Nigeria. Their influence raises concerns about unchecked private monopolies and the impact on global markets.
A CALL FOR GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION: REINVENTING THE SYSTEM
Oxfam calls for radical government intervention to address the widening wealth gap. Urgent measures include revitalizing the state, reining in corporate power through breaking up monopolies, legislating for living wages, capping CEO pay, and imposing new taxes on the super-rich and corporations. Oxfam estimates that a wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires could generate $1.8 trillion annually.
REINVENTING BUSINESS: A DEMOCRATIC APPROACH
The report advocates for reinventing business structures, promoting democratically-owned businesses to equalize the distribution of proceeds. Employee-owned businesses could potentially double the wealth share of the poorest half of the population, presenting a path toward a fairer and more equitable economic landscape.