WASHINGTON: "The rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer" may be an overworked aphorism, but never has it been truer than in 2015.
A study by Oxfam revealed that the world's top 80 billionaires in 2014 had a collective wealth of $1.9 trillion, which is close to India's entire GDP in that year. Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people).
That figure is now 80 — a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010, and attesting to the growing wealth disparity in the world. The wealth of the richest 80 actually doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014.
The study shows that the very richest of the top 1% of the billionaires on the Forbes list have seen their wealth accumulate even faster over the past five years. In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3 trillion. By 2014, the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list, whose data Oxfam used, had a collective wealth of $1.9 trillion; an increase of $600 billion in just four years, or 50% in nominal terms.
And, it's not as if the very poor have the remaining 52% of global wealth. Almost all of it (46%) is owned by the "less wealthy" — the remaining richest 19% of the world's population.
The other bottom 80% share just 5.5%, and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult — that's 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1%.
The Oxfam report says wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying — mostly in the US — to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests.
The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues, ''public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists.''