The world’s eight richest individuals have as much wealth as the 3.6bn people who make up the poorest half of the world, according to Oxfam.
The world’s eight richest billionaires
1. Bill Gates (US): co-founder of Microsoft (net worth $75bn)
2. Amancio Ortega (Spain): founder of Zara owner Inditex (net worth $67bn)
3. Warren Buffett (US): largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8bn)
4. Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico): owner of Grupo Carso (net worth $50bn)
5. Jeff Bezos (US): founder and chief executive of Amazon (net worth $45.2bn)
6. Mark Zuckerberg (US): co-founder and chief executive of Facebook (net worth $44.6bn)
7. Larry Ellison (US): co-founder and chief executive of Oracle (net worth $43.6bn)
8. Michael Bloomberg (US): owner of Bloomberg LP (net worth $40bn)
Even that Bill Gates is the richest man, however, in 2016, Amancio Ortega, the Spanish retail genius who started Zara, passed Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world on Wednesday and Thursday, before Gates reclaimed the title Friday morning. Shares of Ortega’s ticked up 2.5% Wednesday, boosting his personal fortune by $1.7 billion, then fell 2.8% by Friday. As of 10 a.m. Friday morning, Ortega was worth $77.8 billion, while Gates was worth an estimated $78.1 billion.
The gap between rich and poor was “far greater than feared”, Mark Littlewood, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said Oxfam should focus instead on ways to boost growth.
The director-general of the free market think tank said: “As an ‘anti-poverty’ charity, Oxfam seems to be strangely preoccupied with the rich”. For those concerned with “eradicating absolute poverty completely”, the focus should be on measures that encourage economic growth, he added.
“Each year we are misled by Oxfam’s wealth statistics. The data is fine – it comes from Credit Suisse – but the interpretation is not”, said Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, he also said it was not the wealth of the world’s rich that mattered, but the welfare of the world’s poor, which was improving every year.
Oxfam’s report coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a Swiss ski resort. The report helped the charity to “challenge the political and economic elites”, said Katy Wright, Oxfam’s head of global external affairs.”We’re under no illusions that Davos is anything other than a talking shop for the world’s elite, but we try and use that focus,” she added.
UK economist Gerard Lyons said Oxfam was right to single out companies that it believed fuelled inequality with business models that were “increasingly focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives”.
“People are angry and calling out for alternatives. They’re feeling left behind because however hard they work they can’t share in their country’s growth,” said Oxfam’s Ms Wright. She also said economic inequality was fueling a polarization in politics, citing Donald Trump’s election as US president and the Brexit vote as examples.
Some of the eight richest billionaires have given away tens of billions of dollars. It takes cash and assets worth $71,600 to get into the top 10%, and $744,396 to be in the top 1%.
Oxfam’s report is based on data from Forbes and the annual datebook. The survey uses the value of an individual’s assets, mainly property and land, minus debts, to determine what he or she “owns”. The data excludes wages or income.
The methodology has been criticized because, for example a student with high debts, but with high future earning potential would be considered poor under the criteria used.