DAVOS, Switzerland - The Covid pandemic has created a new billionaire every 30 hours and now one million people could fall into extreme poverty at the same pace, Oxfam said Monday as the Davos summit returns.
The international charity said it was time to tax the rich to support the less fortunate as the global elite gathered at the Swiss mountain haven for the World Economic Forum after a two-year Covid-induced absence.
Oxfam said it expects 263 million people to sink into extreme poverty this year, at a rate of one million every 33 hours, as soaring inflation has added a cost-of-living crisis on top of Covid.
By comparison, 573 people became billionaires during the pandemic, or one every 30 hours.
"Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes," Oxfam executive director Gabriela Bucher said in a statement.
"The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them," Bucher said.
"Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive," she said.
Oxfam called for a one-off "solidarity tax" on billionaires' pandemic windfall to support people facing soaring prices as well as fund a "fair and sustainable recovery" from the pandemic.
It also said it was time to "end crisis profiteering" by rolling out a "temporary excess profit tax" of 90 percent on windfall profits of big corporations.
Oxfam added that an annual wealth tax on millionaires of two percent, and five percent for billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year.
Such a wealth tax would help lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world and pay for universal health care for people in poorer countries, it said.
Oxfam based its calculations on the Forbes list of billionaires and World Bank data.