New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1%

The Guardian, Monday January 19, 2015

From Barbara Blouin, The Inheritance Project: News of a new report from Oxfam, one of the world’s largest and most respected anti-poverty charities, deserves to wake us all up. The following contains excerpts from The Guardian’s January 19 article. It deserves to be read in its entirety. It contains some surprising news about the increasing proportion of inheritors in the one percent. See the sentence in bold.

 http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/19/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality-davos-economic-summit-switzerland

 Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published on Monday, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: …: “The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a study showing that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was now even more stark, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 in 2010. . . .

Inequality has moved up the political agenda over the past half-decade amid concerns that the economic recovery since the global downturn of 2008-09 has been accompanied by a squeeze on living standards and an increase in the value of assets owned by the rich, such as property and shares.

Pope Francis and the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde have been among those warning that rising inequality will damage the world economy if left unchecked, while the theme of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital was the drift back towards late 19th century levels of wealth concentration. . . .

Oxfam said the wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014, and that there was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches, [ed: emphasis added] while 20% have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.

These sectors spent $550m lobbying policymakers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571m in campaign contributions. . . .

Oxfam said it was calling on governments to adopt a seven point plan:

• Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.

• Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.

• Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.

• Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.

• Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.

• Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.

• Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.