Richest 85 people own half world's wealth, new report finds


“The richest 85 people in the world, who could fit onto a single double-decker bus, have just as much wealth as the poorest half of world,” Huffington Post said on January 20.

The statistic was revealed by non-government organisation Oxfam in a new report, Working for the Few.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke "said the report showed extreme economic inequality was rapidly rising in most countries.

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

She said widening inequality was helping the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promoted their interests at the expense of everyone else.

“In developed and developing countries alike, the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given to the rich and their children,” Dr Szoke said.

Oxfam’s report shows that globally, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars away from the tax office in a web of tax havens around the world. It’s estimated that $21 trillion is held unrecorded and off shore.

The group urged world governments to crack down tax havens and halt tax avoidance and evasion.

“This network of secrecy and low tax rates facilitates the illicit flows of large amounts of capital from the poorest countries. It is estimated that between 2008 and 2010, sub-Saharan Africa lost on average $72 billion dollars this way each year, or more than twice what it received in aid.”

Huffington Post said polls carried out in Britain, Brazil, India, South Africa, Spain and the US found most people believe the laws are skewed in favour of the rich. Two-thirds of British people polled thought “the rich had too much influence over the direction the country is headed”. Only one in ten disagreed.