Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

Richest 62 own equal wealth to poorest half of world

The richest 1 per cent of the population now control half the world's wealth. Photo / iStock
The richest 1 per cent of the population now control half the world's wealth. Photo / iStock

The inequality gulf has widened to 62 of the wealthiest people owning all the wealth of the poorest 3.6 billion people combined.

The latest inequality report by Oxfam shows the richest 1 per cent now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. The report was published today ahead of the annual gathering of the world's financial and political leaders in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

Data from Credit Suisse showed the wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44 per cent, more than half a trillion dollars, in the five years since 2010. Meanwhile the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past five years.

The richest 62 people in the world include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim Helu, American investor Warren Buffett and Armancio Ortega, the founder of Spanish fashion chain Zara.

Oxfam said a global system of tax havens allows an estimated total of US$7.6 trillion of individuals' wealth to sit offshore.

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If tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra US$190 billion would be available to governments every year, the report said.

Oxfam estimated that tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries at least US$100 billion every year. Corporate investment in tax havens almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2014, the report said.

Oxfam New Zealand's advocacy and campaigns director, Dr Jason Myers, said it was hard to know whether New Zealand was suffering from a similar tax dodging situation.

"We just don't know. We do know that in 2013 the Tax Justice Network labelled New Zealand a tax haven for some poor transparencies around foreign tax and registered companies operating here.

"The impacts of the very wealthy individuals and very big companies being able to avoid paying their fair share of tax is that it trickles down to inevitable cuts in essential public services like health and education."

Myers said Oxfam was seeking a global response to the tax-dodging.

"A global system which actually legislated against those very wealthy people hiding their profit would help to alleviate those pressures."

The trend for the gulf to extend suggested the number of 62 people holding the wealth of the poorest half of the population would reduce to 11 by 2020 unless change was implemented.

"It's about a fair system of redistributing income so that we don't see these enormous gulfs between the very, very rich and those who are going without," Myers said.

Read Oxfam's report here:

- NZ Herald

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