India’s richest 1% own more than 40% of country’s wealth, finds Oxfam inequality report

India’s richest 1% own more than 40% of country’s wealth, finds Oxfam inequality report

The richest one per cent in India own more than 40 per cent of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half of the population together share just 3 per cent of all wealth, according to a new report.

The report by Oxfam titled “Survival of the Richest” was released on Monday to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

It revealed that the total number of billionaires in India increased from 102 in 2020 to 166 in 2022. The combined wealth of India’s 100 richest has touched $660bn (£540bn) – an amount that could fund the federal government’s budget for more than 18 months.

“A one-off tax on unrealised gains from 2017-2021 on just one billionaire, Gautam Adani, could have raised Rs 1.79 trillion, enough to employ more than five million Indian primary schoolteachers for a year,” the report said.

Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said that India is “on a fast track to becoming a country only for the rich”.

“The number of hungry Indians increased to 350 million in 2022 from 190 million in 2018,” he said in a statement.

“After witnessing mass suffering and death during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was critical that the government of India took aggressive measures to address injustice and poverty. But it has unfortunately lost the plot,” he said.

Globally, the report found that the richest 1 per cent took nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 per cent of the world’s population.

During the past decade, the richest 1 per cent had captured around half of all new wealth.

Elsewhere, Oxfam’s report found that the richest 1 per cent of people in the UK are now wealthier than 70 per cent of the population combined.

It said that the 685,500 richest people in Britain are worth a total of £2.8 trillion, compared with 48 million people in the UK whose combined wealth totals £2.4 trillion.

Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said: “While ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams. Just two years in, this decade is shaping up to be the best yet for billionaires – a roaring ‘20s boom for the world’s richest.”

The report highlighted that billionaire wealth surged in 2022 with rapidly rising food and energy profits. It added that 95 food and energy corporations have more than doubled their profits in 2022.

“They made $306bn in windfall profits, and paid out $257bn (84 per cent) of that to rich shareholders. The Walton dynasty, which owns half of Walmart, received $8.5bn over the last year. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, owner of major energy corporations, has seen this wealth soar by $42bn (46 per cent) in 2022 alone. Excess corporate profits have driven at least half of inflation in Australia, the US and the UK.”

The report has called on governments to Introduce one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering.

It also suggests that taxing “the wealth of the richest 1 per cent at rates high enough to significantly reduce the numbers and wealth of the richest people, and redistribute these resources.”