As the fortunes of the world’s richest men rose by $540 billion since coronavirus struck last March, the fallout of the pandemic will lead to the biggest increase in global inequality on record unless governments around the world radically restructure their economies, anti-poverty organization Oxfam warned on Monday.
In a report geared to inform discussions at the World Economic Forum’s online panels of political and business leaders this week, Oxfam said the richest 1,000 people have already managed to more than recoup the losses they recorded in the early days of the pandemic because of the bounce back in stock markets. By contrast, Oxfam said it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover their losses.
Using figures from Forbes’ 2020 Billionaire List, Oxfam said the world’s 10 richest men, including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett, saw their fortunes increase by half a trillion dollars since the crisis began even though the global economy remains smaller than when the pandemic started a year ago.
Here is how some of the country's biggest billionaires fared during the last 10 months of the pandemic.
The Amazon founder often plays trading places with Tesla's Elon Musk and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for the title of world's richest man. Former hedge-fund manager Bezos holds that distinction as of today.
According to the 24/7 Wall Street website, before the pandemic started in March 18, 2020, Jeff Bezos' estimated net worth was $113.0 billion. As of October 13, 2020, it soared 79.8% to an estimated $201 billion.
The pandemic has proven to be lucrative for Amazon with millions of people staying home not visiting stores and buying online. For the last year, the stock is up 80% -- just a notch higher than the increase in Bezos' estimated net worth.
According to 24/7 Wall Street, Warren Buffett's fortune rose 20.1% registering $67.5 billion in March and totaling $81.1 billion in October.
The stock price of Buffet's company has seen an uptick -- but not as much his own net worth -- with a 5.5% increase. Still not bad for a stock with a share price way above $300,000.
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The co-founder, executive chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle Corporation is always in the top five richest men in the United States. Due to the pandemic, more and more people were working away from offices increasing the need for cloud computing power for many companies. Software giant Oracle, like Bezos' Amazon Web Services, is a major player in this arena.
In March of 2020, Larry Ellison's estimated net worth was $59 billion. The yachtsman, who has competed for and won the America's Cup, saw his net worth pop 36.1% according to 24/7 Wall Street reaching 80.3 billion in October.
In the last year, Oracle's stock has risen more than 15%
The man who gave the world Windows on its computers is now an active philanthropist, far removed from his software developer days when he co-founded Microsoft.
Like Oracle and Amazon, Microsoft is a major player in the cloud computing game as well video conferencing with Skype and its new Microsoft Teams -- all of which have been in demand during the pandemic.
Today 24/7 Wall Street reports that Bill Gates owns a little more than 1% of Microsoft. Still, his estimated net worth grew by some 20.4% during the pandemic. In March, Gates' portfolio was valued at $98 billion and in October it hit $118 billion.
On the same token, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to spend some $300 million on developing therapeutics, vaccines and testing options to fight COVID-19.
The king of electric cars has made, what some have found, shocking statements during the pandemic. Just as the pandemic was unfolding he downplayed the spread of the virus predicting no new cases.
He also took on government shutdowns when it came to his Tesla production facilities.
Through it all, the legendary entrepreneur -- who rose to fame and fortune as the co-founder of Pay Pal -- saw his estimated net worth rise more than 277% according to the website. In March, his fortune was estimated at $24.6 billion and by October is has flown as high as one of his Space X rockets hitting $92.8 billion.
The demand for Elon Musk's electric cars has boomed during the pandemic. On March 18, Tesla stock was worth $72 per share. By Oct. 13, it was worth over $440 per share and today it closed above $875 per share.
The co-founder of Google and its parent company, Alphabet, has seen a demand during the pandemic in his company's products. Google Meet came about to take advantage of the increased demand for video conferencing..
Google's suite of business tools seemed ripe to pick as more and more people worked remotely. In March Google issued a blog post called "How Google Cloud is helping during COVID-19" to alert businesses to its prospects.
With Alphabet's stock price reaching new all-time highs over the last few months, Page saw his estimated net worth according to 24/7, grow 37.6% from $50.9 billion in March to $70 billion. Page also benefitted from Tesla's surge as he was an early investor in the auto company.
Alphabet's stock price in the last year is up more than 32%.
The founder of Facebook has seen his estimated net worth rise more than 85% according to the 24/7 Wall Street.
The pandemic has seen Facebook users turn to the social platform for everything from virtual happy hours to TV viewing parties. It has also become a source of information about COVID-19 with users sharing information. The company also took an active role in providing information by creating the Coronavirus Information Center for all users and a resource center for businesses.
Mark Zuckerberg has seen his estimated net worth go from $54.7 billion in March to $101.2 billion in October. Facebook stock during that time hit several all-time highs including its $303.91 record back in August.
While the stock has cooled off since then, it is still up nearly 30% for the last year and closed Monday just above $276 per share.
As billionaire wealth has increased, Oxfam, using data specially provided by the World Bank, said in its report that in a worst-case scenario global poverty levels would be higher in 2030 than they were before the pandemic struck, with 3.4 billion people still living on less than $5.50 a day. Oxfam said the basis of the scenario plotted was in line with many other economic forecasts.
“Rigged economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic — shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International.
Bucher said women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis and are “more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare.”
While urging governments to ensure that everyone has access to a coronavirus vaccine and financial support if they lose their job, Bucher said policies in a post-coronavirus world should focus on ending poverty and protecting the planet.
“They must invest in public services and low carbon sectors to create millions of new jobs and ensure everyone has access to a decent education, health, and social care, and they must ensure the richest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share of tax to pay for it,” she said.
“These measures must not be band-aid solutions for desperate times but a ‘new normal’ in economies that work for the benefit of all people, not just the privileged few,” she added.
Oxfam has traditionally sought to inspire debate at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of business and political elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Though the pandemic means there won’t be any trek up the mountains this week, organizers are putting on a virtual gathering. Political leaders will be joined by business executives and campaigning organizations such as Oxfam during the discussions between Jan. 25-29.