The ultra-wealthy know how to get rich and stay rich
Oxfam, the Oxford-headquartered confederation of charitable organizations, would like to be the conscience to the very wealthy. For the last five years, it has tabled annual reports detailing the poverty in the world and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Often, it has resorted to sensational headlines, though one might argue that it feels the need to beat the drum a little harder to get the attention of the economic elites many of whom operate with practised indifference to everything happening outside their bubble.
In its 2015 report, Oxfam stated that the richest 1 per cent will own more than all the rest of the world by 2016 and added that over a billion people in the world still lived on less than $1.25 a day. The following year, it reported that 62 people in the world owned the same amount as half of the world and that those 62 men and women had a cumulative net worth of $1.76 trillion.
It was last year’s report though that really rankled the establishment. It stated that just eight men owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the world or 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people. Oxfam revised last year’s numbers of people who have a combined wealth equal to the poorest half of the world to 61, and in its latest hard-hitting report says that this year the number has dropped dramatically to just 42. The rich are getting richer.
With 42 people now worth as much as the wealth equal to the poorest half of the world, Oxfam also says that the richest 1 per cent in the world netted 82 per cent of the wealth created in 2017. For the record, Bloomberg recently reported that in 2017 the collective wealth of the rich rose $1 trillion year-on-year.
Oxfam also says that billionaire wealth has risen 13 per cent since 2010, compared to ordinary worker wages that have risen two per cent in the same period. It would take $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all the 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. That $2.2 billion might not seem astronomical when you consider that Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, is worth over $100 billion and could make or lose that $2.2 billion in a morning’s worth of trading.
These reports, released in time for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland where many of the heads of governments from the world’s richest countries and a significant number of ultra-wealthy businessmen attend, are meant to create talking points for the convention that aren’t always on the agenda. At times, deliberately.