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Unequal world: Richest 1 % own half of global wealth

Wealth accumulated by the richest 1% will exceed that of the other 99% in 2016, the Oxfam charity said on Monday, ahead of the annual meeting of the world's most powerful at Davos, Switzerland.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2015 08:53 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

As world leaders gather in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, the Oxford-based charity group Oxfam released new research on Monday that pointed to the combined wealth of the global richest 1% overtaking that of the other 99% of people in 2016.

Oxfam said the richest 1% had seen their share of global wealth increase from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014. At this rate, it will be more than 50% in 2016.

Two Indians figure in Oxfam’s list of billionaires in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, who saw an increase in their wealth between March 2013 and 2014. They are Dilip Sanghavi (wealth increased by 36%) and Cyrus Poonawalla (increased by 26%)

Oxfam’s executive director Winnie Byanyima warned that the explosion in inequality was holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25-a-day.

According to Oxfam’s paper, ‘Wealth: Having it All and Wanting More’, members of the global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014. Of the remaining 52% of global wealth, almost all (46%) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world's population.

The other 80% share just 5.5% and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult - that's 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1%.

Byanyima said: "Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast”.

Oxfam said that 20% of billionaires had interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.

It added that these sectors spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.

Billionaires listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw their collective net worth increase by 47%. During 2013, they spent more than $500 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels.

First Published: Jan 19, 2015 10:28 IST