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25 Apr 2019, Edition - 1381, Thursday

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Mukesh Ambani has more money than what govt spends on your welfare: Oxfam report

indiatoday.in

A study by international rights group Oxfam has said the wealth of billionaires in India rose by a whopping Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018. The top one per cent of India’s wealthiest got richer by 39 per cent compared to 3 per cent growth in the incomes of the bottom 50 per cent.

What makes the study critical for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government which has launched a slew of pro-poor schemes is the finding that disparity is only getting deeper in India. It says, “The wealth of top nine billionaires in India is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population and 60 per cent or the majority of the population own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth.”

The Opposition, which has been building a government for the rich and off the poor chorus against the Modi government is likely to capitalise on the findings and projections of the report.

The Oxfam report adds that India’s top 10 per cent population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. A deeper study of the data in the report shows the top one per cent have cornered 51.53 per cent of the national wealth, while the remaining 99 per cent make do with almost 48 per cent.

The combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and all the states for medical, public health, sanitation and water supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore (a little more than Rs 2 lakh crore) — which is less than the wealth of country’s richest man Mukesh Ambani at Rs 2.8 lakh crore. – Oxfam report

According to the report, India had 18 people joining the new billionaires’ list in 2018. There are now 119 billionaires in India with their combined wealth touching $440 billion or approximately Rs 30 lakh crore in comparison to $325.5 billion in 2017.

The Modi government recently launched the Ayushman Bharat scheme that promises Rs 5 lakh medical insurance to poor families. The scheme is yet to reach people as indicated by the Oxfam report which says the highest-quality medical care is only available to those who have the money to pay for it. The country is a top destination for medical tourism. At the same time, levels of public spending on health are some of the lowest in the world. The poorest Indian states have infant mortality rates higher than those in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report suggests that if India’s richest one per cent pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth, the money raised would be enough to increase government spending on health by a staggering 50 per cent.

To showcase the wide gap between the earnings of the rich and budgeted benefits provided by governments to the poor, the report says, The combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and all the states for medical, public health, sanitation and water supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore (a little more than Rs 2 lakh crore) — which is less than the wealth of country’s richest man Mukesh Ambani at Rs 2.8 lakh crore.

In the recent five state assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost three critical states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as the Opposition, Congress, promised farm loan waivers. The Oxfam report gives an idea of why the Congress’s promise made great politico-economic sense. It says that the poorest 10 per cent (13.6 crores) Indians have been living under the burden of debt since 2004.

The World Inequality Report 2018 shows that between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50 per cent of humanity managed to capture only 12 paise of every rupee earned while the top one per cent captured 27 paise of every rupee.

There are now 119 billionaires in India with their combined wealth touching $440 billion or approximately Rs 30 lakh crore in comparison to $325.5 billion in 2017. – Oxfam report

India is not alone in the rise of the rich and the slide of the poor. In 2018, fortunes of billionaires globally rose by $2.5 billion a day as compared to the poorest half of the world’s population, who saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, said Oxfam.

Oxfam’s report comes a day before the start of the World Economic Forum’s annual meet at Davos, Switzerland. It underlines that increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.

The report notes the deepening of the concentration of wealth by stating that only 26 people on the earth now own the same as the 3.8 billion people — the poorest half of humanity. As per the report last year there were 44 people in the top bracket compared to the 26 this time — which include the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon whose fortune increases to $112 billion.

The report compared that one per cent of his fortune is equal to the whole health budget for 115 million people of Ethiopia.

The report brings out more stark facts. In the 10 years since the economic meltdown in the US, the number of billionaires has almost doubled. A new billionaire was born every two days between 2017 and 2018.

Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar after the release of the report said: “The survey 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.”

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