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‘Inequality kills’ with the rich getting richer since the Covid-19 pandemic – Oxfam report

The increase in Jeff Bezos' fortune alone during the pandemic could pay for everyone on earth to be safely vaccinated, according to an Oxfam report. Photo: REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing

The increase in Jeff Bezos' fortune alone during the pandemic could pay for everyone on earth to be safely vaccinated, according to an Oxfam report. Photo: REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing

Published Jan 18, 2022

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OXFAM has slammed the growing gap between the rich and the poor which has significantly widened during the Covid-19 pandemic across the world.

In a report titled “Inequality Kills”, published yesterday ahead of the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda 2022, Oxfam said the wealth of the 10 richest men had doubled since March 2020 while the incomes of 99 percent of humanity were worse off because of Covid-19. The global charitable foundation reported that the wealth of billionaires' had risen by $5 trillion (R76.72trln) since Covid-19 began, the biggest surge in the wealth of the ultrarich since records began.

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“In July 2021, the world's richest man launched himself and his friends into space in his luxury rocket while millions were dying needlessly below him because they could not access vaccines or afford food,” read the report. “The increase in (Jeff) Bezos' fortune alone during the pandemic could pay for everyone on earth to be safely vaccinated.”

Oxfam said that inequality was contributing to the death of at least 21 000 people each day from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate breakdown.

The head of Oxfam's EU office, Evelien van Roemburg, said an estimated 5.6 million people die every year due to the lack of access to healthcare in poor countries.

“Extreme inequality is a form of economic violence, where policies and political decisions that perpetuate the wealth and power of a privileged few results in direct harm to the vast majority of people across the world and the planet itself,” she said.

Oxfam said a one-off 99 percent tax on the world's 10 richest' windfall during the pandemic could pay to make enough Covid vaccines for every person in the world, provide universal healthcare and social protection, while still leaving the wealthy $8 billion better off than they were before the pandemic. It said that the inequality between countries is also widening, driven by many poorer countries being denied Covid-19 vaccines by pharmaceutical monopolies.

Oxfam International's executive director Gabriela Bucher said the governments of affluent nations had failed to increase taxes on the wealth of the richest in the past two years, and continued to privatise public goods such as vaccine science. “Inequality at such a pace and scale is happening by choice, not chance,” Bucher said. “Not only have our economic structures made all of us less safe against this pandemic, they are actively enabling those who are already extremely rich and powerful to exploit this crisis for their own profit.”

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Oxfam recommended permanent wealth and capital taxes, progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, immediate waiving of intellectual property rules over Covid19 vaccine technologies, among other measures.

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