Wealth Inequality, Billionaires and the COVID19 Pandemic

Globally the working class has lost 37 Billion dollars simultaneously when the world's billionaires witnessed an increase of 40 billion dollars since the beginning of pandemic.


The entire world’s human population can be vaccinated against COVID-19 if we were to use the combined values of the increase in the wealth of the millionaires globally says a report published by Oxfam in early 2021.

The world was caught unprepared by the COVID19 pandemic when it first became a global health emergency in 2020. Data till January 2021 show that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, globally the working class has lost 37 Billion dollars simultaneously when the world’s billionaires witnessed an increase of 40 billion dollars (or 4 trillion) in their wealth— the latter being greater than the Indian economy.

A report titled “The Inequality Virus (Bringing together a world torn apart by coronavirus through a fair, just and sustainable economy)” published by Oxfam in January 2021, shows that the increase in the wealth of the billionaires when combined globally reaches a sum that will not only be enough to recover from the economic losses that the pandemic has caused but also allow the entire world population to get vaccinated. The important thing to notice here is that the report is not asserting that the total wealth of these billionaires but just the increases in it during the pandemic and that is evidence of the severity of the exacerbation of inequality caused by the pandemic in a world that largely works under capitalist relations of production.

According to the report, the percent increment in the wealth of Billionaires globally will be enough to save people from falling below the poverty line. In fact, the amount is more than the money required to vaccinate every single person on the planet.

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The pandemic along with being a health crisis also brought with it an economic crisis throughout the world and India was not an exception where already a political crisis was fueling with a fundamental Hindu Nationalist party in power. It was during this time of triple crisis in the nation that  Gautam Adani who is known to share a good relationship with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the second most rich human being in the world.

Adani airport
Courtesy: Bharat Karnad

Meanwhile, experts are saying that it might take a century for the common masses all over the world to come out of the economic losses incurred during this pandemic. The report also mentions that globally, roughly 20 to 50 crore people might have slipped under the poverty line during the year 2020.

During this period, 8.3% of the workers in the world lost their jobs; their income jointly would have made for 4.4.% of the world’s GDP. Parallel to this, the top ten millionaires in the world were earning more than 10 billion dollars, an amount that makes up for more than half of the amount the Biden administration has allotted to its COVID stimulus plan.

Oxfam’s report has also remarked that the combined income of millionaires globally is more than 11.95 trillion dollars which is equivalent to the combined amount spent by G20 countries to battle the COVID19 pandemic. The report also suggests five measures to better the health and economic crisis that has been wreaking havoc globally. One of these suggestions is the imposition of wealth tax and stringent checks on tax fraud by the corporates.

The demand for levying wealth tax has gained momentum during this pandemic when the existent inequalities in the world have become very visible. According to Business Insider’s Jospeh Zeballos-Roig’s report published in April, International Monetary Fund which had earlier supported tax cuts for the wealthy classes has now advocated increasing the taxes on the wealth of the rich to support the government revenue.

The Oxfam report goes on to add that the experiences and lessons learned during the pandemic must lead to concrete changes and the imposition of relevant taxes on the rich people and large corporates.


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April 2024



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