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‎COVID-19 has made world’s rich richer, the poor poorer – Oxfam

Report notes that the fortunes of the world's top billionaires returned to pre-pandemic levels in nine months, while it takes decades for the poor to recover. And in the US, UK, Brazil, Blacks are more likely to die from COVID-19 than Whites. 


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THE coronavirus pandemic has made the rich richer while further impoverishing the poor, according to a report by Oxfam, a global charity organisation. 

Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 non-governmental organisations that work with partners in over 90 countries, including Nigeria, to end the injustices that cause poverty.

In the report titled ‘The Inequality Virus,’ released in January 2021, Oxfam observes that in multiracial societies such as the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil, marginalised groups, especially Blacks, are more likely to die from the coronavirus pandemic than Whites.

Coronavirus has increased inequality across the world

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has fed off, and increased, existing inequalities around the world, Oxfam, which assessed the global impact of the crisis, says that it has “hurt people living in poverty far harder than the rich, and has had particularly severe impacts on women, Black people, Afro-descendants, Indigenous Peoples, and historically marginalised and oppressed communities around the world.”

While the pandemic has forced the global economy into recession – a worldwide contraction – Oxfam, in the report, notes that “since the virus hit, the rich have got richer and the poor poorer.”

“It took just nine months for the top 1,000 billionaires’ fortunes to return to their pre-pandemic highs, but for the world’s poorest people, recovery could take 14 times longer; more than a decade,” the report states, adding that the increase in the wealth of the 10 richest billionaires in the world since the crisis began is more than enough to prevent anyone on earth from falling into poverty due to the virus and to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone.

According to Oxfam, a stock market collapse in the first months of the pandemic resulted in dramatic reductions in the wealth of the richest billionaires, some of the biggest stockholders. But the setback was short-lived.

Within nine months, the top 1,000 billionaires, mainly white men, have recovered all the wealth they lost. With unprecedented support from‎ governments for their economies,  the stock market has been booming, driving up billionaires’ wealth, even while the real economy faces the deepest recession in a century.

Read Also: How IMF COVID-19 loan forced FG to increase pump price, electricity tariffs- Oxfam report

Oxfam notes that across the world, billionaires’ wealth increased by a staggering 3.9 trillion dollars between March 18 and December 31, 2020.

“Their total wealth now stands at 11.95 trillion dollars, which is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic. The world’s 10 richest billionaires have collectively seen their wealth increase by 540 billion dollars over this period.

“Only three of the 50 richest billionaires in the world saw their fortunes diminish over that period, losing 3 billion dollars between them,” Oxfam says.

The two billionaires who have seen the largest increases in their wealth in this period – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – are active in the technology and automotive, battery production and space sectors.

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The billionaires’ index

According to Bloomberg, Musk increased his net wealth by 140 billion dollars from March to December while Bezos increased his by 72 billion dollars.

Also, Zhong Shanshan, founder of Nongfu Spring, Chinese bottled water and beverage company, raised his wealth by 66.2 billion dollars, according to CNBC and Bloomberg. Also, Collin Huang, a 40-year-old CEO of Pinduoduo, an agrotech platform, added 33 billion dollars more to his net worth. According to CNBC and Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg increased his wealth by 26 billion dollars within the period, as Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rocket Companies,  became 28.1 billion dollars richer within the period.

According to Oxfam, some of the world’s largest corporations are funnelling billions of dollars in profits to shareholders, giving yet another windfall to the world’s richest billionaires.

The Oxfam report discloses that between March and August 2020, billionaires in the Middle East and North Africa increased their wealth by 20 percent, more than double the IMF emergency financing to the region during that same period, and almost five times the value of the United Nations’ COVID-19 humanitarian appeal for the region.

Also, in Latin America and the Caribbean, after the market crash, the combined wealth of billionaires increased by 17 percent between March and July 2020.

Oxfam says the 17 percent increase amounts to an additional $48 billion, which is enough to pay for one-third of all fiscal stimulus packages introduced by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in response to the coronavirus crisis over that period, and also nine times more than the emergency credit provided by the IMF in the region in that same period, and more than five times the amount needed to prevent 12.4 million people from falling into extreme poverty in the region for a year.

Across the world, the richest people have escaped the worst impact of the pandemic

“Evidence shows us that, all around the world, the wealthiest people have escaped the worst impacts of the pandemic,” Oxfam says, noting that “in the UK, while lower-income households have fallen into debt during the lockdown, the richest 20 percent saved 30 billion dollars.”

More privates jets are being purchased as a result of COVID-19

Interestingly, the report reveals that private jets sales soared globally when commercial travel was banned during the lockdown, revealing that the world’s rich moved much of their money to tax havens in response to lockdown.

The poor became poorer

In the report, Oxfam states that while the world’s billionaires got richer, people living in poverty became even poorer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Recent estimates show that the number of people living on less than 5.50 dollars a day could have increased by between more than 200 million to half a billion in 2020. According to Development Initiatives, the poorest people in almost every country have seen their income fall due to the pandemic,” Oxfam observes.

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Although many of the world’s poorest people are in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oxfam says that more than two-thirds of people who have been ‘newly’ forced into poverty are in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.

The report adds that most of those forced into poverty are informal workers who are excluded from social protection and social support programmes and access to credit.

Marginalised groups, particularly Blacks, are more likely to die from COVID-19 in US, UK, Brazil, other multiracial societies

The Oxfam report also says that, in multiracial societies such as the US, UK and Brazil, marginalised groups, particularly Blacks, are more likely to die from COVID-19 due to ‘systemic racism.’

According to Oxfam, “Systemic racism puts Black people, Afro-descendants, Indigenous Peoples and historically marginalised and oppressed communities at higher risk. In several countries, the pandemic has highlighted gross inequality in health outcomes based on race and ethnicity. Black people, Afro-descendants, Indigenous Peoples and other racialised groups are more likely to contract COVID-19, and to suffer the worst consequences, as suggested by evidence from several countries. In the US, for example, age-adjusted hospitalisation rates due to COVID-19 were five times higher for Black, Latino, and Native Americans than for White people. COVID-19 mortality rates among Black people were found to be twice those of White people.”

“In the US, Latino and Black people are more likely to die of COVID-19 than White people. In Brazil, people of Afro-descent have been 40 percent more likely to die of COVID-19 than White people,” Oxfam adds.

Noting that rates of infection among long-neglected migrant and refugee populations have also been disproportionately high, Oxfam notes that as of April 2020, the percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Somalis in Norway and Finland was 10 times their percentage share of the population, and they accounted for a significant proportion of deaths.

Also, in the Amazon region, the number of deaths among the Indigenous population increased from 113 to 2,139 in barely six months, an increase that is two-and-a-half times more than what was registered among the general population. Oxfam further observes that out of the 400 Indigenous Peoples that inhabit the Amazon region, by the middle of November 2020, the virus had reached 238.

To drive home the dismal impact of ‘systemic racism’ on marginalised groups, Oxfam notes that, in the US, if the death rate of Blacks had been the same as that of White people between February and December 2020, over 16,800 Black people would still be alive.

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