The human rights group Oxfam says the wealth of the world’s 85 richest people equals that of half the world’s population.
Oxfam released a study on global inequality on Monday, before a meeting this week of government and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
A co-author of the report, Nick Galasso, tells VOA that wealthy elites have used their political power to get lower tax rates, hide wealth offshore, and otherwise serve their own interests.
“High levels of inequality actually corrode democratic processes. What we have seen across the globe and what the report documents is how wealth concentration is used to influence the political process to create laws and regulations that benefit the rich over everyone else,” said Galasso.
He said high levels of inequality hurt economic growth, make it harder to reduce extreme poverty and lead to a variety of social ills, including crime and disease.
Oxfam said that “by some measure, the riches of billionaires are now unparalleled in history.” Last year, Forbes calculated the combined fortunes of the 85 wealthiest at nearly $1.7 trillion.
The report did not name the world’s 85 richest individuals, but cited lists compiled by Credit Suisse bank and Forbes magazine.
Oxfam said the income alone derived from the $73 billion fortune of the world’s richest individual, Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, could pay the yearly wages of 440,000 Mexicans.