News / Economy

Oxfam: 85 Wealthiest People Own as Much as Half the World's Population

FILE - US $100 notes.
FILE - US $100 notes.
VOA News
The human rights group Oxfam says the wealth of the world's 85 richest people equals that of half the world's population.

Oxfam released a study on global inequality on Monday, before a meeting this week of government and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

A co-author of the report, Nick Galasso, tells VOA that wealthy elites have used their political power to get lower tax rates, hide wealth offshore, and otherwise serve their own interests.

"High levels of inequality actually corrode democratic processes.  What we have seen across the globe and what the report documents is how wealth concentration is used to influence the political process to create laws and regulations that benefit the rich over everyone else," said Galasso.

He said high levels of inequality hurt economic growth, make it harder to reduce extreme poverty and lead to a variety of social ills, including crime and disease.

Oxfam said that "by some measure, the riches of billionaires are now unparalleled in history."  Last year, Forbes calculated the combined fortunes of the 85  wealthiest at nearly $1.7 trillion.

The report did not name the world's 85 richest individuals, but cited lists compiled by Credit Suisse bank and Forbes magazine.

Oxfam said the income alone derived from the $73 billion fortune of the world's richest individual, Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, could pay the yearly wages of 440,000 Mexicans.

The report lists financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, and diminished public services as examples of political maneuvering by the wealthy.  It said the effect of these policy changes is not only to concentrate wealth and political influence in higher income brackets but to ensure it stays there for the next generation.

Oxfam says in the past decade the number of billionaires in India has increased tenfold, while in Europe austerity measures mainly affect the middle and lower classes.  It says in Africa, global corporations exploit their political influence to avoid taxes, reducing government resources to fight poverty.

Oxfam is calling for those business leaders and government delegates attending the World Economic Forum to support government programs that strive to help under-served middle- and lower-income levels; support development of fair wages; and crack down on tax dodging and financial secrecy.

Galasso acknowledged reducing inequality will not be easy.

"I think that this is certainly an uphill battle, but this is the right moment.  If you scan the Internet, if you look at the news, this is the issue, this is a global issue that people seem to overwhelmingly care about.  What we are asking world leaders at Davos, the movers and shakers, to do is to instead of using their influence to, for example, generate better tax policies for themselves or allow them to ship their profits out of state so they do not get taxed, we are asking them to use their influence to help create a more harmonious society where there's shared prosperity," he said.

You May Like

Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.