LONDON (AP) — Anti-poverty organization Oxfam on Monday called on governments to impose a one-off 99% tax on the world’s billionaires and use the money to fund increased production of vaccines for the poor — as part of an effort to tackle the global inequality carved out by the coronavirus pandemic.
The ranks of the super-rich have swelled during the pandemic thanks to sweeping financial stimulus measures that have boosted stocks, the group said. Meanwhile, poor countries have suffered more than their share of COVID-19 due to unequal access to vaccines, which have mostly gone to wealthy countries, Oxfam said in a report aimed at informing discussions at the World Economic Forum online gathering of political and business leaders. this week.
“The pandemic has been a boon for billionaires,” Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher said in an interview. “When governments put in bailouts and pumped trillions into the economy and into the financial markets to support the economy for all, what happened was that a lot of it is went into the pockets of billionaires.”
Vaccine development has been one of the pandemic’s success stories, but Bucher said they have been “hoarded by rich countries” who seek to protect pharmaceutical monopolies.
Since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, a new billionaire has been hit almost every day. The fortunes of the world’s 10 richest men – including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates – have more than doubled to $1.5 trillion, making them six times richer than the 3.1 billion people the world’s poorest, said Oxfam.
Meanwhile, an additional 160 million people have been forced into poverty during the pandemic, Oxfam said, citing figures from the Forbes 2021 Billionaires List, Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook and the World Bank.
Oxfam has called on wealthy countries to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to increase production.
A one-time pandemic tax of 99% on the 10 richest men could raise more than $800 billion and be used to fund this effort and other progressive social spending, the group said.
The money “could pay for vaccines for the whole world, have healthcare systems for everyone,” Bucher said. “We would also be able to offset the damage of climate change and have policies that address gender-based violence,” while leaving the 10 billionaires $8 billion richer than they were at the start of the pandemic. pandemic, she added.
All is not dark. The group noted that the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, are beginning to consider policies aimed at tackling inequality, such as raising tax rates on the wealthy and taking action against corporate monopolies.
“The point is, extreme inequality is not inevitable and that’s why it brings us hope,” Bucher said.
Oxfam has long sought to inspire debate at the annual gathering of economic and political elites usually held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. The pandemic has forced organizers to postpone the event for a second year, instead holding virtual sessions where political leaders will be joined by business leaders and campaign groups such as Oxfam.
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