62 People Own Half The World

Inequality gap widens ‘dramatically’ as super-rich get richer.

THE WORLD’S 62 wealthiest people own as much as the globe’s poorest half— around 3.6 billion people, Oxfam revealed yesterday.

The total riches of the group — just nine of whom are women — has increased to £1.22 trillion since 2010, yet their wealth has not led to higher tax revenues to help the most needy.

In comparison, the wealth of the poorest half of the world fell by £694bn over the same time, even though the number of people in this group rose by a colossal 400 million.

The gap between rich and poor widened “dramatically” over the past year, exacerbated by the super-rich siphoning off £5.3trn to hidden offshore accounts.

Their aversion to paying a total of £132bn in tax each year contributes to starving developing countries of funds that would pay for health, education, sanitation and infrastructure.

Oxfam said urgent “concrete action” must be taken by world leaders, especially Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, to honour promises to crack down on tax-dodgers in order to tackle the “inequality crisis” by 2030.

As much as 30 per cent of all African financial wealth is believed to be held offshore, according to the An Economy for the 1 Per Cent report published before the annual World Economic Forum in Swiss ski resort Davos this week.

This has cost £9.7bn in lost tax revenue each year — enough to save four million children’s lives a year and to keep every African child in school.

Oxfam’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “It is simply unacceptable that the poorest half of the world population owns no more than a small group of the global super-rich — so few, you could fit them all on a single coach.

“In a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night we cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an ever bigger slice of the cake.”

Tackling the “veil of secrecy” shrouding Britain’s network of tax havens would be a huge step in improving the living standards of the most impoverished people, he added.

Mr Cameron vowed in Davos three years ago to get tough on tax avoidance and warned corporations who get away with paying minuscule amounts on their huge profits to “wake up and smell the coffee.”

Now he must deliver on his promise, Mr Goldring said, as promises to increase transparency in British tax havens have not yet been implemented.

While Mr Cameron has introduced public registers of companies’ owners, only one British overseas territory — Montserrat — has done the same.

Systematic tax avoidance is one of the “defining issues of global injustice,” according to Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now.

He added: “The flow of aid that goes to countries in Africa is dwarfed by financial flows that are leaked out of the continent via offshore tax havens, exacerbating inequality and entrenching poverty.

“Even the aid that a country like Britain does pay becomes controversial because of tabloid-fuelled accusations that ‘charity begins at home.’

“But again it is the fact that corporations and financial elites manage to pay so little tax that vital public services become starved.”

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