The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have increased by $453 billion over the past two years due to soaring energy and commodity prices during the pandemic and the Vladimir war Putin in Ukraine, an Oxfam report has revealed.
As global business and political elites gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the development charity says soaring global food prices have helped create “62 new food billionaires ” in just 24 months.
Cargill, which is one of the world’s biggest food traders, now counts 12 of its family members as billionaires, up from eight before the pandemic. The Cargill family, along with three other companies, controls 70% of the global agricultural market.
Food prices, which have risen by more than 30% on average over the past year, are expected to push more than 263 million more people into acute poverty than before the pandemic. This would bring the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day to 860 million by the end of the year. This is equivalent to the populations of the UK, France, Germany and Spain combined.
Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said: “It is morally indefensible that people in East Africa are starving to death while the fortunes of the world’s super-rich are fueled by soaring food prices. and energy.
“At a time when hundreds of millions more people face extreme poverty, governments can have no excuse not to tackle gargantuan profits and wealth to ensure no one is left behind. “.
Oxfam called on world leaders meeting in Davos to immediately introduce wealth taxes on the super-rich to help tackle “the biggest rise in extreme poverty in more than 20 years”.
The development charity said governments should follow Argentina’s lead and introduce a “one-off solidarity tax on pandemic windfalls from billionaires”. Argentina’s levy raised 223bn pesos (£1.5bn) last year.
Oxfam has also called for the introduction of permanent wealth taxes to “curb extreme wealth and monopoly power”. He said an annual wealth tax starting at 2% for millionaires and rising to 5% for billionaires could generate $2.5 billion a year. That would be enough, Oxfam said, “to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, manufacture enough vaccines for the world, and provide universal health care and social protection to all who live in low-income and low-income countries.” lower middle”.
A third demand seeks to end “crisis profiteering” by introducing a temporary windfall tax on all big business, not just oil and gas companies, as the Labor Party in the UK is proposing. Oxfam said such a tax on “just 32 super profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020”.
“Introducing wealth taxes, for example, would raise huge sums that could help vulnerable groups survive this crisis and build a better future,” Sriskandarajah said. “Here in the UK, a one-off energy company tax would be a good start to help anyone struggling to eat and heat their homes.”
A total of 573 new billionaires have emerged during the pandemic. Oxfam said the coronavirus crisis had been “the greatest moment in recorded history for the billionaire class”.
The combined wealth of billionaires is $12.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s ranking of the super-rich. This equates to 13.9% of global GDP, and a threefold increase since 2000. The wealth of the 20 richest billionaires is greater than the entire GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.
Nellie Kumambala, a primary school teacher who lives in Lumbadzi, Malawi, with her husband, two children and mother, said: “Prices have gone up so much, even since last month. Two liters of cooking oil, last month it was 2,600 kwacha, now it’s 7,500. Imagine. Yesterday I went to the store to buy some cooking oil, but failed, I didn’t have the money.
“Every day I worry about how I’m going to feed the household, thinking, ‘What do I have to do today so we can eat?'” she added.