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Laws favour the rich - Oxfam

20 January 2014, 08:44 Fin24

Nairobi - The 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population, said Oxfam, who is calling on World Economic Forum (WEF) delegates to help reverse this trend.

Oxfam highlighted in a report entitled Working For the Few the impact that widening inequality is having on developed and developing countries.

The report indicates that in Africa, global corporations in extractive industries exploit their influence to avoid taxes and royalties.

This reduces the resources available to governments to fight poverty.

It also showed that globally, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars away from the tax man in a web of tax havens.

It is estimated that $21 trillion is held unrecorded and off-shore.

According to the report, wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, but the public is increasingly questioning this.

A vicious cycle

Polls done for Oxfam in six countries indicate that most people believe that laws are skewed in favour of the rich.

The survey was conducted in South Africa, Brazil, India, Spain, the UK and US.

Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement that widening inequality is creating a vicious circle.

“It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite and whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage.

"In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest," said Byanyima who will attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

A challenge for WEF delegates

Oxfam is calling those attending the WEF to make a six-point personal pledge:

- Support progressive taxation and not to dodge their own taxes;
- Refrain from using their wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
- Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
- Challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens;
- Demand a living wage in all companies they own or control;
- Challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.

It is also asking governments to tackle inequality by cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging, including through the G20; investing in universal education and healthcare; and agreeing on a global goal to end extreme inequality in every country as part of the post 2015 negotiations.

The WEF’s annual meeting in Davos takes place from January 22 to 25 and this year's theme is The reshaping of the world: consequences for society, politics and business.

 - Fin24


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