Oxfam report: more wealth, more poverty

The Covid pandemic has drastically widened the gap between rich and poor worldwide, according to a report published by NGO Oxfam. The wealth of the ten richest billionaires doubled between March 2020 and November 2021, while more than 160 million have been forced into poverty. Europe's press discusses the findings and the consequences.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Time for fair taxes

The rich have been benefiting for decades from the lack of clear tax rules, rails La Stampa:

“For that reason, the head of Oxfam International has proposed a one-off tax of 99 percent on pandemic revenues. This would raise an enormous sum that could then be redistributed. Even if the proposal may seem provocative, it clearly points to the only way forward, namely taxation. Taxing the richest not out of malice or envy, as some might object, but to ensure that those who earn their money also thanks to the exploitation of workers who accept unacceptable working conditions contribute to the overall redistribution and thus to social justice.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Rein in excessive profit maximisation

De Volkskrant calls for more state regulation:

“When workers are increasingly exploited or rationalised away in order to drive profits at the top of the company to obscene heights, we can safely say that the system is failing. Especially when top management works primarily with an eye to increasing shareholder value and - with the help of highly paid tax experts - paying as little tax as possible on their obscene profits. ... Excessive profit maximisation can be curbed: by taking action against tax avoidance, limiting the scope for the 'market' and strengthening state regulation so as to protect the general public. ... The widening gap between rich and poor should worry everyone because it destabilises societies by undermining their sense of community.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Doom and gloom counterproductive

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Oxfam's view of the problem is oversimplified:

“Companies and those who run them are the bad guys who should either be broken up, taxed or discredited. The fact that innovations that make people like Biontech founders Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci billionaires save the lives of millions of people appears at best in a footnote in the Oxfam report. Apparently mentioning that Elon Musk's fortune is skyrocketting because he helped a more climate-friendly technology achieve a breakthrough would only disturb the picture. ... With its pessimism and omissions the NGO is unfortunately doing much to take the wind out of its own sails.”

La Croix (FR) /

Pettiness inappropriate

Instead of questioning the report's findings, critics should acknowledge real inequalities, La Croix demands:

“Oxfam's desire to make an impact on people's minds can lead to inaccuracies or excessive moralism. Nevertheless the broad outlines of the picture it presents us with can hardly be doubted. ... Some astute observers will argue that these comparisons are meaningless, that the gaps described are temporary and merely reflect the rapid rise in stock prices. But that's the same old song, the all-too-familiar litany of interest-driven rhetoric. However on this issue, pettiness is misplaced. The inequalities are very real.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The world must not remain a lab for Covid

Poor countries are the main victims of the increasing inequality, NRC Handelsblad criticises:

“Helping is not only humane, it is also a matter of self-interest. The rest of the world must not remain a laboratory where the virus continues to create new mutations. But above all: people who are not in a position to tackle this disaster either at home or abroad urgently need help. That requires sacrifices, especially by those at the top of the global wealth ladder. And that is where most Dutch people are sitting pretty - perhaps to their own surprise.”