There was a new billionaire almost every day during the pandemic

New York (CNN Business) — The covid-19 pandemic has been good for the wallets of the wealthy.

Some 573 people have joined the ranks of billionaires since 2020, bringing the global total to 2,668 billionaires, according to an analysis released by Oxfam on Sunday. That means a new billionaire has been minted every 30 hours, on average, so far during the pandemic.

The report, which is based on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise in inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the start of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together some of the world’s richest people and leaders.

Billionaires saw their total net worth increase by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. Much of the rise was fueled by strong gains in stock markets, helped by governments pumping money into the global economy to soften the financial blow from the coronavirus.

Much of the increase in wealth occurred in the first year of the pandemic. It then leveled off and has since dropped a bit, said Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of inequality policy.

Simultaneously, COVID-19, rising inequality and rising food prices could push 263 million people into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of progress, Oxfam said in a report it published last month.

“I have never seen such a dramatic growth in poverty and wealth at the same time in history,” Lawson said. “It’s going to hurt a lot of people.”

Benefit from high prices

Consumers around the world face rising food and energy costs, but corporations in these industries and their leaders are benefiting from rising prices, Oxfam said.

Food and agribusiness billionaires saw their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, in the last two years, after adjusting for inflation. Since 2020, some 62 food billionaires have been created.

Meanwhile, the net worth of their peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors is up $53 billion, or 24%, from 2020, after adjusting for inflation.

Forty new pandemic billionaires were created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against covid-19 and is the beneficiary of billions in public funds.

The tech sector spawned many billionaires, including seven of the world’s 10 richest people, like Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. These men increased their wealth by $436 billion to $934 billion in the past two years, after adjusting for inflation.

tax the rich

To counter the meteoric rise in inequality and help those fighting rising prices, Oxfam is lobbying governments to tax the wealthy and corporations.

It calls for a temporary 90% tax on excess corporate profits, as well as a flat tax on the wealth of billionaires.

The group would also like to impose a permanent wealth tax on the super-rich. It suggests a 2% tax on assets over $5 million, rising to 5% for net worth over $1 billion. This could raise $2.5 trillion worldwide.

However, many governments have not adopted wealth taxes. Efforts to tax the wealthiest Americans’ net worth have failed to make progress in Congress in recent years.

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