OXFAM International is calling on the government at all levels to impose a Billionaire wealth tax so as to reduce the global inequalities rates on the continent.

A statement by the information officer, OXFAM Nigeria, Rita Abiodun on Monday 23 May 2022 noted that the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has practically grown the wealth of persons and companies in the food, pharma, energy, and tech sectors, thus living millions of people in severe cost-of-living crisis due to the rapidly rising costs of essentials, including food and energy.

It said Introducing one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls will help fund and support people facing rising food and energy costs as well as create a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19.

The statement reads in part “Pandemic creates new billionaire every 30 hours — now a million people could fall into extreme poverty at the same rate in 2022, As the cost of essential goods rises faster than it has in decades, billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion dollars every two days.”

In the word of Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher, he said “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. Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,”

According to the OXFAM brief, it shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours. “We expect this year that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours. Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP. This is a three-fold increase (up 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 has 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. “Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills, and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. 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.”Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food, and pharmaceutical sectors —where monopolies are especially common— 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 have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, Total Energies, Exxon, and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires. Together with just three other companies, the Cargill family controls 70 percent of the global agricultural market. Last year Cargill made the biggest profit in its history ($5 billion in net income) and the company is expected to beat its record profit again in 2022. The Cargill family alone now has 12 billionaires, up from eight before the pandemic.  From Sri Lanka to Sudan, record-high global food prices are sparking social and political upheaval. 60 percent of low-income countries are on the brink of debt distress. While inflation is rising everywhere, price hikes are particularly devastating for low-wage workers whose health and livelihoods were already most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly women, racialized, and marginalized people. People in poorer countries spend more than twice as much of their income on food than those in rich countries.

Today, 2,668 billionaires — 573 more than in 2020 — own $12.7 trillion, an increase of $3.78 trillion. The world’s ten richest men own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of humanity, 3.1 billion people. The richest 20 billionaires are worth more than the entire GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa. A worker in the bottom 50 percent would have to work for 112 years to earn what a person in the top 1 percent gets in a single year.

The pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires. Pharmaceutical corporations like Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second just from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments.”

Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher further stressed that governments are being charged up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production, even as 87 percent of people in low-income countries have still not been fully vaccinated.“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This is unconscionable. Some have grown rich by denying billions of people access to vaccines, others by exploiting rising food and energy prices. They are paying out massive bonuses and dividends while paying as little tax as possible. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do.

“The super-rich have stashed nearly $8 trillion in tax havens. End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries.

An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower-middle-income countries.”

 

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