Civil Society Discussion on Increasing Inequality held in Berhampur, Ganjam

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Berhampur: Billionaire fortunes in India increased by 35 percent last year – Rs 2200 crorea day – while 13.6 croreIndians who make up the poorest 10 percent of the country continued to remain in debt since 2004, a new report by Oxfam revealed today.Globally, billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year – $2.5 billion a day – while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent. The report is being launched as political and business leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.‘Public Good or Private Wealth’ shows the growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.  It reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging, on the other.  It also finds that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality.The report reveals Indiaadded 18 new billionaires last year raising the total number of billionaires to 119. Their wealth crossed the US$400 billion (INR 28000 billion) mark for the first time. It rose from US$325.5 billion (INR 22725 billion) in 2017 to US$440.1 billion (INR 30807 billion) in 2018. This is the single largest annual increase since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.• Getting the richest one percent in India to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth could raise enough money enough to increase government spending on heath by 50 percent. • Last year, wealth of top 1 percent in India increased by 39 percent whereas wealth of bottom 50 percent increased at a dismal 3 percent.• Globally, tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent.• India’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and State for Medical & Public Health, Sanitation & Water Supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore(INR 2082 billion), less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire MukeshAmbani at Rs 2,80,700 crore (INR 2807 billion). While billionaire wealth soars, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people.  In many countries including India, a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford. Children from poor families in India are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than children from rich families. Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 percent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 percent of corporations.  Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most. Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail. Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple, the world’s biggest company. “Economic inequality plagued by caste, class, gender and religion need to be tackled on a war-footing. Government must now deliver real change by ensuring that the super-rich and corporations pay their fair share of tax and invest this money to strengthen public healthcare and education. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” said Behar.

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