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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7492
JPY
USD
102.27
GBP
USD
0.5960
CAD
USD
1.0950
INR
USD
61.300

Rates may not be current.