One per cent of Indians hold 51.53% of the country’s wealth

The world's top 26 billionaires now own as much as the poorest 3.8 billion, according to Oxfam International. For its part, India added 18 billionaires to its kitty last year, taking the total to 119. Their wealth crossed $400 billion (Rs 28 lakh crore). The corpus jumped to $440.1 billion (2018) from $325.5 billion (2017). That’s the biggest jump since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Published: Tuesday 22 January 2019

Public Good or Private Wealth? A new report by Oxfam International revealed today that Indian billionaires' fortune rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018. Whereas 13.6 crore Indians, roughly the poorest 10 per cent, continued to be in debt since 2004. Last year, wealth of the top one per cent in India increased by 39 per cent whereas the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent increased at a dismal 3 per cent. India added 18 billionaires to its kitty last year, taking the total to 119. Their wealth crossed $400 billion mark for the first time. It rose from US$325.5 billion (INR 22,725 billion) in 2017 to US$440.1 billion (INR 30,807 billion) in 2018. This is the single largest annual increase since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

While billionaire wealth soars, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people. In many countries including India, a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford. Children from poor families in India are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than children from rich families. 

Getting the richest one per cent in India to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth could raise enough money to increase government spending on heath by 50 per cent. India’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and State for Medical & Public Health, Sanitation & Water Supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani at Rs 2,80,700 crore

Globally, tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 per cent in 1970 to just 38 per cent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 per cent.

The report 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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