Billionaires' wealth grew during pandemic but 160 million people forced into poverty

Billionaires' wealth grew during pandemic but 160 million people forced into poverty

Oxfam Ireland has called for extreme riches to be subject to a wealth tax to help fund recovery from the pandemic. File picture: Pexels

Ireland’s nine billionaires have increased their wealth by 58% to €49.7bn since the start of the pandemic, analysis by Oxfam has found.

The analysis also shows a new billionaire was created every 26 hours in that time somewhere in the world, and the world’s ten richest men doubled their wealth from €610bn to €1.3 trillion.

On the other end of the scale, 160m people were forced into poverty, and inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds.

Sitting at the top of Ireland's billionaires list is construction magnate Pallonji Mistry, who is worth $14.6bn. 
Sitting at the top of Ireland's billionaires list is construction magnate Pallonji Mistry, who is worth $14.6bn. 

In response to these disparities, Oxfam Ireland has called for extreme riches to be subject to a wealth tax to help fund recovery from the pandemic.

In a report published today named Inequality Kills, Oxfam relies on data from the Forbes Real Time Billionaires 2022 List and information provided by Wealth-X.

The richest list: Ireland's nine billionaires

The nine billionaires listed for Ireland by Forbes are: 

  • Pallonji Mistry of construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji Group, with a net worth of €12.78bn ($14.6bn);
  • John Grayken of Lone Star Funds — €6.65bn ($7.6bn); 
  • Denis O’Brien, Digicel — €4.02bn ($4.6bn); 
  • John Collison and Patrick Collison of Stripe — €2.80bn ($3.2bn) each;  
  • John Armitage, of hedge fund Egerton Capital — €2.27bn ($2.6bn); 
  • John Dorrance, heir to the Campbell Soup fortune — €2.27bn ($2.6bn); 
  • Eugene Murtagh of the Kingspan group — €2.014bn ($2.3bn); 
  • Financier Dermot Desmond, with a net worth of €1.927bn (€2.2bn).

Born in Tipperary and brought up there and in Limerick, Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison are two of Ireland's nine billionaires, according to data collated by Oxfam.
Born in Tipperary and brought up there and in Limerick, Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison are two of Ireland's nine billionaires, according to data collated by Oxfam.

Oxfam’s estimates show that a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4m could raise €4bn in tax revenue. A 1.5% wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7bn.

With a net worth of €1.927bn, Dermot Desmond is Ireland's ninth-wealthiest billionaire.
With a net worth of €1.927bn, Dermot Desmond is Ireland's ninth-wealthiest billionaire.

Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken called for progressive wealth taxes, debt relief, and cancellation of debts for the less well-off.   

"Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of euro into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," he said. 

“[Ireland] could lead by example by introducing a wealth tax of 1.5% on the very wealthiest which would have a positive effect on Ireland’s society as it recovers from the pandemic,” he said.

Denis O'Brien is at number three in the billionaires list, and is estimated to be worth €4.02bn. 
Denis O'Brien is at number three in the billionaires list, and is estimated to be worth €4.02bn. 

This funding, he suggested, could be used for housing or health, or for supporting a just transition to a zero-carbon society.

Oxfam Ireland also warned the impact of the pandemic is far from over as vaccine inequity will limit how quickly some countries can recover.

Kingspan group chairman, Eugene Murtagh, who is estimated to be worth €2.014bn, making him Ireland's eighth wealthiest billionaire. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews
Kingspan group chairman, Eugene Murtagh, who is estimated to be worth €2.014bn, making him Ireland's eighth wealthiest billionaire. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The proportion of people with Covid-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that in wealthy countries, the report stated.

Mr Clarken cautioned against leaving poorer countries behind as pressures lead to social conflict including rising rates of violence against women

Most poignantly, following the horrific recent murder in Tullamore, the Inequality Kills report shows that violence against women has soared during the pandemic.

“Yet gender-based violence has accounted for only 0.0002% of global pandemic response funding,” he said. 

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