The impacts of Covid-19, rising global inequality and soaring food prices caused by the war in Ukraine are set to send more than a quarter-billion more people into poverty this year, according to charity group Oxfam International.
The combined hit may result in a total of 860 million people living below the $1.90 a day line by the end of 2022, or 263 million more than the projection before the pandemic, the group said in a report on Tuesday. That’s equivalent to the entire population of the U.K., France, Germany and Spain combined.
Oxfam released the report ahead of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings taking place next week in Washington, where global economic challenges and the shock of Russia’s invasion are set to feature as two of the main focuses.
The poorest people will be hit hardest, with food costs accounting for 40% of consumer spending in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with 17% in advanced economies, Oxfam said, citing an IMF report.
Oxfam warned that the return of inflation is a recipe for financial turmoil in lower-income countries that need dollars for their energy, medicine and food imports, and whose debt is largely in the U.S. currency.
To address the situation, Oxfam proposed a number of ideas. They include an annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at 2%, and 5% on billionaires, which the organization estimates would generate $2.52 trillion a year. That would be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal health care and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries.
“We reject any notion that governments do not have the money or means to lift all people out of poverty and hunger and ensure their health and welfare,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher. “We only see the absence of economic imagination and political will to actually do so.”
In the U.S., President Joe Biden last month proposed a 20% minimum tax on households worth more than $100 million. While it could generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue and has strong support among many Democrats, it’s unlikely to be passed anytime soon in Congress, where the party has razor-thin margins, because many moderate lawmakers are skittish about such a big tax overhaul.
Oxfam also is urging the Group of 20 biggest nations to cancel all debt payments this year and next for all low- and lower-middle-income countries that require it. The group estimated that debt servicing for all of the world’s poorest countries will amount to $43 billion this year — equivalent to almost half their food-import bills and public spending on health care combined.
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