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January 25, 2021

While millions of people forced to live in poverty: Billionaires recover pandemic losses within no time

National

January 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As many as 1,000 richest people, who suffered during the pandemic, have recovered their losses just within nine months, but it could take more than a decade for the world’s poor to bear the jolt of Covid-19, revealed a new Oxfam’s report ‘The Inequality Virus’, on Sunday. The report shows that the Covid-19 has the potential to cause economic inequality in almost every country at once, and it happened first time since the records began over a century ago. Rising inequality meant that it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly white male, billionaires to bounce back. It is pertinent to mention that the Oxfam’s report, ‘The Inequality Virus’, is being published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s agenda at Davos.

In South Asia, the poorest region, 101 billionaires have seen their fortunes increased by $174 billion, since March, enough to give all 93 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region, a cheque of $1,800 each. It also reveals that how the pandemic is deepening long-standing economic, racial and gender divides:

• The world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increased by half a trillion dollars, since the pandemic began — more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty. At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work.

• Globally, women are overrepresented in the low-paid precarious professions that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. If women were represented at the same rate as men in these sectors, 112 million women would no longer be at high risk of losing their incomes or jobs. Women also make up roughly 70 percent of the global health and social care workforce - essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at a greater risk from the Covid-19.

• Fairer economies are the key to a rapid economic recovery from Covid-19. A temporary tax on excess profits made by 32 global corporations that have gained the most during the pandemic, could have raised $104 billion in 2020. This is enough to provide unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low- and middle-income countries.

Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said, “The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus. Rigged economies are channelising wealth to the rich elite, that riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline, including the shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors, are struggling to pay their bills and get food properly. Women and marginalised racial and ethnic groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis. They are more likely to be pushed into the poverty line, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare.”

Syed Shahnawaz Ali, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan, has remarked on the launch of the report that “The devastating impact of the Covid-19 on the poverty levels and inequality is immense. The global economic downturn has had a disproportionate impact on developing and emerging economies. They have taken the hardest hit, and the pandemic have had set back decades of progress. It tested the resilience of the countries burdened by billions of dollars’ worth of debt that also lacked strong healthcare systems. Pakistan was no different as Prime Minister Imran Khan called for the debt relief to combat the pandemic.”

“And now at the end of the pandemic, we have been seeing an incredible risk to the equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, with wealthy countries, claiming the lion’s share of available doses for themselves. If we are to recover from the pandemic, it is important that we invest in the People’s Vaccine, so that no one should be left behind, based on their country or how much money they have,” he added.