THE WEALTH of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by a massive €15.55 billion since the start of the pandemic, new research from Oxfam has shown.
That represents a 15 percent increase bringing it to €51 billion, while latest figures show that 691,587 people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation, of which 204,710 are children.
Around the world, billionaires' wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of Covid-19 than in 23 years combined.
The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP, up from 4.4 percent in 2000.
Oxfam's report, Profiting from Pain, also shows that globally 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours.
This year, it is expected that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.
Corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits.
The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.
In Ireland, five of the biggest Irish food companies have had a total profit rise of €174 million in just one year - in the last year of recorded profits. Meanwhile five of the best-known Irish energy companies had combined yearly profits of €280 million. Yearly inflation for energy products in Ireland is 43.6 percent. While food inflation in Ireland is currently at 3.5% in consumer price figures, wholesale prices are likely to push figures higher in the near future.
Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland said:
"Billionaires arriving in Davos have seen an incredible surge in their fortunes. Simply put, the pandemic followed by the steep increases in food and energy prices have been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on ending extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.
"It is unconscionable that some are profiteering from the pandemic and its aftermath while others are trying to choose between paying their energy bills or going hungry. Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions.
"The super-rich have rigged the global system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatisation and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments."
The study is published as the global elite gather in Davos Switzerland again for the World Economic Forum.
It is the first time that the gathering has taken place on a face-to-face basis since the pandemic began.
“Government leaders in Davos face a choice: act as proxies for the billionaire class who plunder their economies or take bold steps to act in the interests of their great majorities," Clark finished.
The charity recommends that governments including Ireland's, introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires' pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from Covid-19.
It also says a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue, while a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7 billion.