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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Just 85 richest people control nearly half of global wealth says Oxfam

World Economic Forum´s annual meeting in Davos

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LONDON - Eighty five richest people or just 1 percent of the world's population controls nearly half of the planet's wealth, according to a new study published by development organization Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos.

The study Working For the Few says this tiny group of people controls $110 trillion, or 65 times the total wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion people.

"It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world's population - that's three and a half billion people - own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus," Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima states in the report.

Oxfam says it is no accident that there is such a huge chasm between the riches and the poor people as it has been driven by a "power grab" by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

Detailing the pernicious impact that widening inequality is having in both developed and developing countries, the study states that 70 percent of the world's people live in a country where income inequality has increased in the past three decades.

The other findings of the study are that in the U.S., where the gap between rich and poor has grown at a faster rate than any other developed country, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of post-recession growth (since 2009), while 90 percent of Americans became poorer.

"Oxfam is concerned that, left unchecked, the effects are potentially immutable, and will lead to 'opportunity capture' in which the lowest tax rates, the best education, and the best healthcare are claimed by the children of the rich," the worldwide relief agency states.

"This creates dynamic and mutually reinforcing cycles of advantage that are transmitted across generations."

Oxfam warns that if the present trends continue, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

"[People] are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown," the report says.

The Oxfam report says that there is a growing global public awareness of this power-grab. Polls done for Oxfam in six countries (Brazil, India, South Africa, Spain, the UK and US) show that most people questioned in all those countries believe that laws are skewed in favor of the rich.

Inequality has shot up the global agenda in recent years: US President Barrack Obama has made it a key priority for 2014.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the next 12-18 months. WEF's Global Outlook report, published in November, warned inequality is undermining social stability and 'threatening security on a global scale.

The Oxfam report largely mirrors findings of several other studies in recent years that have documented growing income inequality in the U.S. and across the globe.

In September, a University of California, Berkeley, study found that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by 31.4 percent over the period 2009-2012, while the other 99 percent experienced just 0.4 percent growth.

Last month, the Pew Research Center published a study that found income inequality in the U.S. was at its highest since 1928, the year before the start of the Great Depression> BNN 

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