World's Richest Billionaires Like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Doubled Fortunes as Poorest Get Poorer, Oxfam Says as Davos Opens

By Jace Dela Cruz

Jan 15, 2024 01:18 AM EST

The combined wealth of the world's richest five men has more than doubled since 2020, while some five billion people have been made poorer, according to anti-poverty group Oxfam.

In its report "Inequality Inc." released on Monday, Oxfam said the five men are now worth a combined $869 billion after increasing their fortunes at a rate of $14 million per hour in the past four years, sounding the alarm on uncontrolled corporate power as business elites gather this week for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

According to Aljazeera, these five billionaires are Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, investor Warren Buffett, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

(Photo : LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)
People walk inside the Constitución train station in Buenos Aires, on January 9, 2024.

Billionaire Owns 7 Out of 10 of the World's Largest Companies

The Oxfam report paints a stark picture of the growing gap between the super-rich and the rest of the world. Reuters reported that Oxfam even discovered a billionaire who is now running or is the main shareholder of 7 out of 10 of the world's biggest firms. 

On Monday, the organization called for governments to restrict corporate power by breaking up monopolies, imposing taxes on excess profits and wealth and exploring alternatives to shareholder control like forms of employee ownership.

The report has shed light on the concentration of wealth, estimating that 148 top corporations amassed a staggering $1.8 trillion in profits, or 52% up on a three-year average. While shareholders enjoyed huge pay-outs, millions of workers faced the impact of a cost-of-living crisis, with inflation leading to real wage cuts.

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Oxfam Predicts World's First Trillionaire Within a Decade

The London-based group said the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade and poverty will not be wiped out for another 229 years if current trends persist. Oxfam noted that nobody should have a billion dollars.

"We're witnessing the beginnings of a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the economic shockwaves of pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires' fortunes boom," Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar said in a statement released with the report.

"This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else," he added.

Substantial gains in the assets of the top five billionaires reportedly drove the inflation-adjusted surge in their fortunes. Oxfam noted that corporations pay around one-third less in taxes than in past decades due to a lobbying "war on taxation," which deprived governments of funds that could be used to benefit the society's poorest.

In the past two years, wages of almost 800 million workers failed to keep up with inflation, leading to an average loss of 25 days in a worker's annual income, according to Oxfam's study.

The study also found that only 0.4% of the world's 1,600 largest corporations have publicly committed to paying workers a living wage and supporting it in their value chains.

"We have the evidence. We know the history. Public power can rein in runaway corporate power and inequality - shaping the market to be fairer and free from billionaire control," Behar noted.

"Governments must intervene to break up monopolies, empower workers, tax these massive corporate profits and, crucially, invest in a new era of public goods and services," he added.

Oxfam usually releases its annual report on inequality ahead of the opening of the yearly WEF, launched in the early 1970s by German economist Klaus Schwab to champion "stakeholder capitalism," which proposes that corporations should serve the interests of all their stakeholders, not just shareholders.

The group said in its report that such aspirations were still far from being fulfilled. 

READ MORE: World Bank Warns Global Economy Set for Weakest Growth Since Pandemic, Hitting Poorer Nations Hardest

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