DAVOS, Switzerland—The world’s political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world as they head off for this week’s World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Two reports published Jan. 18, from Oxfam and public relations firm Edelman, warned that the widening gap between the haves and have-nots since the global financial crisis is undermining a decades-long effort to reduce global poverty and fueling the rise of populist politicians.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working to combat poverty in more than 90 countries.
According to Oxfam, the scale of the problem is increasingly stark: just 62 people, it says, own the same wealth as half the planet. The compares with 388 people just five years ago, when the global economy was just emerging from its deepest recession since World War II.
While the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population—more than 3.6 billion people—has fallen by a trillion dollars, or 41 per cent, since 2010, Oxfam said in its report that the wealth of the super-elite has risen by around half a trillion dollars.
Though acknowledging that dealing with inequalities has become a part of discussions in Davos, Oxfam said it’s time for leaders to do more than just acknowledge the problem, especially if they want to hit poverty-reduction targets.
“It is simply unacceptable that the poorest half of the world’s population owns no more than a few dozen super-rich people who could fit onto one bus,” said Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director, who will again attend Davos, having co-chaired last year’s event.
Tax havens, she said, are at the core of the rigged system that allows big corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
“I challenge the governments, companies and elites at Davos to play their part in ending the era of tax havens, which is fuelling economic inequality and preventing hundreds of millions of people lifting themselves out of poverty,” said Byanyima. “Multinational companies and wealthy elites are playing by different rules to everyone else, refusing to pay the taxes that society needs to function.”
Oxfam reckons around $7.6 trillion of individuals’ wealth sits offshore and that around $190 billion could be made available for poverty-fighting initiatives if tax were paid on that wealth. Closing the loopholes, which Oxfam says are used by nine out of ten of the WEF’s sponsoring corporations, will help governments meet their goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.
Over the past few years, those voicing concerns over growing inequalities have increased. Even the International Monetary Fund has warned of the perils to growth stemming from this gap.