1% of the population owns more wealth than the other 99% combined. This is the data released in the latest Oxfam report , published on Monday, ahead of the annual World Economic Forum, which will gather together global leaders, as well as World financial and economic elite this week in Davos.
According to the report, the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. This number has fallen dramatically from 388 as recently as 2010 and 80 last year. The wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. Just nine of the '62' are women.
Although world leaders have increasingly talked about the need to tackle inequality, the gap between the richest and the rest has widened dramatically in the past 12 months. Oxfam's prediction - made ahead of last year's Davos - that the 1% would soon own more than the rest of us by 2016, actually came true in 2015, a year early.
Over the past year, Oxfam has urged world leaders to develop stronger policies against tax dodging, calling for an end to the era of tax havens which has seen increasing use of offshore centres by rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share to society. This has denied governments valuable resources needed to tackle poverty and inequality.
Globally, it is estimated that super-rich individuals have stashed a total of $7.6tr in offshore accounts. If tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190bil would be available to governments every year.
As much as 30 percent of all African financial wealth is estimated to be held offshore, costing an estimated $14billion in lost tax revenues every year. This is enough money to pay for healthcare for mothers and children that could save 4 million children's lives a year and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school.
Nine out of ten WEF corporate partners have a presence in at least one tax haven and it is estimated that tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries at least $100billion every year. Corporate investment in tax havens increased almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2014.
By contrast, the already wealthy have benefited from a rate of return on capital via interest payments, dividends, etc, that has been consistently higher than the rate of economic growth. This advantage has been compounded by the use of tax havens which are perhaps the most glaring example set out in the report of how the rules of the economic game have been rewritten in a manner that has supercharged the ability of the rich and powerful to entrench their wealth.
Action to recover the missing billions lost to tax havens needs to be accompanied by a commitment on the part of governments to invest in healthcare, schools and other vital public services that make such a big difference to the lives of the poorest people.