World’s eight richest as wealthy as half humanity, Oxfam tells Davos

The release of the group’s annual inequality report coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos.The wealth of the world’s poorest 3.6 billion people is the equivalent to the combined net worth of six American businessmen, one from Spain and another from Mexico.As decision makers and numerous super-rich gather for this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, the charity’s report suggests the wealth gap is wider than ever, with new data for China and India indicating that the poorest half of the world owns less than previously estimated.Oxfam called on worldwide leaders to improve cooperation to prevent tax avoidance, to encourage companies to take action for the benefit of staff as well as shareholders.It also urged business chiefs to commit to paying a living wage and their fair share of tax.”It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day”, said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, who will be attending the meeting in Davos. It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.Oxfam said out-of-control pay ratios meant the average pay of FTSE100 chief executives was 129 times that of the average employee. The others, in order of ranking, are Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of fashion house Inditex, financier Warren Buffett, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Bloomberg, the former mayor of NY.The Oxfam report said that the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet since 2015.The ability of the rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes was vividly exposed a year ago in the so-called “Panama Papers”, a leaked trove of data that revealed details on offshore accounts that helped individuals shelter their wealth.”Far from trickling down, income and wealth are being sucked upwards at an alarming rate”, the report said.The election of Trump in November 2016 has further highlighted wealth disparities in the US, said Oxfam.Its report added: ” The fortune of Bill Gates has risen 50% or 25 billion USA dollars since he left Microsoft in 2006, despite his commendable efforts to give much of it away.Oxfam said under its calculations, which were based on the Forbes billionaires list and Credit Suisse global wealth distribution data, just under 10% of the world’s poorest were in debt. Of the 1,810 dollar billionaires around the world, 89% are men.