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Pandemic Economics: ‘Rich Became Richer And Poor Poorer’

New Delhi: Even as the coroonavirus pandemic took away the daily bread and butter from millions in the country, Indian billionaires have increased their wealth by 35 per cent during the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

A study conducted by Oxfam also revealed that their wealth increased by 90 per cent since 2009 to $422.9 billion, ranking India sixth after the US, China, Germany, Russia and France.

The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months, but it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, reveals the report titled ‘The Inequality Virus,’ published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Agenda’.

“In fact, the increase in wealth of the top 11 billionaires of India during the pandemic could sustain the NREGS scheme for 10 years or the health ministry for 10 years,” according to the Oxfam report.

Since March as the government announced lockdown, India’s top 100 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by Rs 12.97 trillion.

The money was enough to give every one of the 138 million poorest Indians a cheque for Rs 94,045 each.

The report showed that COVID-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.

“Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly White male, billionaires to bounce back,” the findings showed.

The report showed that COVID-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.

“Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly White male, billionaires to bounce back,” the findings showed.

As per the Oxfam Inequality Report called as “The Inequality Virus Report,” Indian billionaire, Mukesh Ambani rose to become the fourth richest man in the world.

The reports further claimed that it would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what Mukesh Ambani made in a second.

Ambani was making Rs 90 crore per hour during the pandemic at a time when around 24 per cent of the people in the country have been earning under Rs 3,000 per month during the lockdown, the report said.

The reports revealed that as many as 1.70 lakh people lost job per hour in April 2020. The increased wealth of the richest can keep 40 crore informal workers out of poverty for at least five months, the findings stated.
It further added that 4% wealth tax on 954 richest families could raise the equivalent of 1% of country GDP.

“As per the reports, the inequality virus is more dangerous than any other virus. Inequality has spread its tentacles day by day. A day will come when a substantial parts of country’s wealth would be in possession of the richest if any concrete step is not taken to check such inequality,” said Akshay Biswal, regional Manager of Oxfam India.

On the other hand, the common people are still struggling hard to make their ends meet. “We sat at home without job for around eight/nine months during lockdown. Now, we resumed the business amid relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions. With a meager income, we manage to maintain our families,” said an Auto-rickshaw driver.

Experts have also expressed concern over the economic inequality during pandemic. “Many sectors including airlines, hotel and hospitality had been hit hard by the pandemic. So, many people who depend on these sectors for a living had lost job,” said Rajeev Sahoo, Chartered Accountant.

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