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‘Survival of the Richest’: India’s richest 1% own more than 40% of total wealth: Oxfam

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Davos: The richest one percent in India now own more than 40 percent of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half of the population together share just 3 percent of the wealth, a new study showed on Monday.

Releasing the India supplement of its annual inequality report on the first day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting here, rights group Oxfam International said that taxing India’s ten-richest at 5 percent can fetch entire money to bring children back to school.

“A one-off tax on unrealized gains from 2017–2021 on just one billionaire, Gautam Adani, could have raised Rs 1.79 lakh crore, enough to employ more than five million Indian primary school teachers for a year,” it added.

The report titled ‘Survival of the Richest’ further said that if India’s billionaires are taxed once at 2 percent on their entire wealth, it would support the requirement of Rs 40,423 crore for the nutrition of malnourished in the country for the next three years.

“A one-time tax of 5 percent on the 10 richest billionaires in the country (Rs 1.37 lakh crore) is more than 1.5 times the funds estimated by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry (Rs 86,200 crore) and the Ministry of Ayush (Rs 3,050 crore) for the year 2022-23,” it added.

On gender inequality, the report said that female workers earned only 63 paise for every 1 rupee a male worker earned.

For Scheduled Castes and rural workers, the difference is even starker — the former earned 55 percent of what the advantaged social groups earned, and the latter earned only half of the urban earnings between 2018 and 2019.

“Taxing the top 100 Indian billionaires at 2.5 percent, or taxing the top 10 Indian billionaires at 5 percent would nearly cover the entire amount required to bring the children back into school,” it added.

Oxfam said the report is a mix of qualitative and quantitative information to explore the impact of inequality in India.

Secondary sources like Forbes and Credit Suisse have been used to look at the wealth inequality and billionaire wealth in the country, while government sources like NSS, Union budget documents, parliamentary questions, etc have been used to corroborate arguments made throughout the report.

Since the pandemic began in Nov 2022, billionaires in India have seen their wealth surge by 121 percent or Rs 3,608 crore per day in real terms, Oxfam said.

On the other hand, approximately 64 percent of the total Rs 14.83 lakh crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST) came from the bottom 50 percent of the population in 2021-22, with only 3 percent of GST coming from the top 10 percent.

Oxfam said the total number of billionaires in India increased from 102 in 2020 to 166 in 2022.

The combined wealth of India’s 100 richest has touched USD 660 billion (Rs 54.12 lakh crore) -– an amount that could fund the entire Union Budget for more than 18 months, it added.

Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said, “The country’s marginalised – Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Women and informal sector workers are continuing to suffer in a system which ensures the survival of the richest.

“The poor are paying disproportionately higher taxes, spending more on essential items and services when compared to the rich. The time has come to tax the rich and ensure they pay their fair share.”

Behar urged the Union finance minister to implement progressive tax measures such as wealth tax and inheritance tax, which he said have been historically proven to be effective in tackling inequality.

Citing a nationwide survey by Fight Inequality Alliance India (FIA India) in 2021, Oxfam said it found that more than 80 percent of people in India support tax on the rich and corporations who earned record profits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“More than 90 percent participants demanded budget measures to combat inequality such as universal social security, right to health and expansion of budget to prevent gender-based violence,” it added.

“It’s time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. Taxing the super-rich is the strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy.

“We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services and for happier and healthier societies,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

Oxfam India urged the Union finance minister to introduce one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering. It also demanded a permanent increase in taxes on the richest 1 percent and especially raised taxes on capital gains, which are subject to lower tax rates than other forms of income.

Oxfam also called for inheritance, property, and land taxes, as well as net wealth taxes, while enhancing the budgetary allocation of the health sector to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2025, as envisaged in the National Health Policy. Oxfam said it also wants public health systems to be strengthened and budgetary allocation for education to be enhanced to the global benchmark of 6 percent of GDP.

“Ensure workers in the formal and informal sector are paid basic minimum wages. The minimum wages should be at par with living wages which is essential for living a life with dignity,” it added.

Net worth of richest-1% double of rest of world: Oxfam

The richest 1 percent have bagged nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world population put together over the past two years, a new report said on Monday.

In its annual inequality report released on the first day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting here, rights group Oxfam further said that billionaire fortunes are increasing by USD 2.7 billion a day even as at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages.

Releasing the report on the sidelines of the annual congregation of the global elite in this Swiss ski resort town, Oxfam said a tax of up to 5 percent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise USD 1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift two billion people out of poverty.

The report, titled ‘Survival of the Richest’, further said the richest one per cent have grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth USD 42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population.

During the past decade, the richest 1 percent had captured around half of all new wealth, it added, while noting that extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.

“While ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams. Just two years in, this decade is shaping up to be the best yet for billionaires,” Oxfam International Director Gabriela Bucher said.

“Taxing the super-rich and big corporations is the door out of today’s overlapping crises. It’s time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. Forty years of tax cuts for the super-rich have shown that a rising tide doesn’t lift all ships — just the superyachts,” she added.

During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, USD 26 trillion (63 percent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1 percent, while USD 16 trillion (37 percent) went to the rest of the world put together, according to the Oxfam study.

A billionaire gained roughly USD 1.7 million for every USD 1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90 percent, it added.

Billionaire fortunes have increased by USD 2.7 billion a day, which comes on top of a decade of historic gains — the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years, Oxfam said.

It said that the calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available, while figures on the richest people have come from the Forbes billionaire list.

It alleged that billionaire wealth surged in 2022 with rapidly rising food and energy profits, as 95 food and energy corporations more than doubled their profits last year.

“They made USD 306 billion in windfall profits, and paid out USD 257 billion (84 percent) of that to rich shareholders,” it added.

It cited examples of the Walton dynasty, which owns half of Walmart, receiving USD 8.5 billion over the last year and Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, owner of major energy corporations, seeing his wealth soar by USD 42 billion (46 percent) in 2022 alone.

Excess corporate profits have driven at least half of inflation in Australia, the US, and the UK, the report said.

“Women and girls often eat least and last, and make up nearly 60 percent of the world’s hungry population. The World Bank says we are likely seeing the biggest increase in global inequality and poverty since WW2,” Oxfam said.

Oxfam called for a systemic and wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich to claw back crisis gains driven by public money and profiteering.

“Decades of tax cuts for the richest and corporations have fuelled inequality, with the poorest people in many countries paying higher tax rates than billionaires,” it added.

Oxfam claimed that Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, paid a “true tax rate” of about 3 percent between 2014 and 2018, while Aber Christine, a flour vendor in Uganda, makes USD 80 a month and pays a tax rate of 40 percent.

Worldwide, only four cents in every tax dollar now comes from taxes on wealth, while half of the world’s billionaires live in countries with no inheritance tax for direct descendants, according to Oxfam.

Noting that the taxes on the wealthiest used to be much higher earlier, Oxfam said that over the last forty years, governments across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas have slashed the income tax rates on the richest.

At the same time, they have raised taxes on goods and services, which fall disproportionately on the poorest people and exacerbate gender inequality, it added.

“Taxing the super-rich is the strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy. We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services. For happier and healthier societies. And to tackle the climate crisis, by investing in the solutions that counter the insane emissions of the very richest,” Bucher said.

According to a new analysis by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and the Patriotic Millionaires, an annual wealth tax of up to 5 percent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise USD 1.7 trillion a year.

It would be enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty, Oxfam said.

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