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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: The richest 1 percent in India owned about 40 percent of the country’s total wealth in 2021, a new report showed on Monday, revealing a widening wealth disparity in the world’s second most-populated country.
By 2022, the number of Indian billionaires rose to 166 from 102 in 2020, according to the “Survival of the Richest” report by charity Oxfam, which was released on Monday to coincide with the start of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Indian billionaires also saw their wealth surge by 121 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic began up until November last year, a supplement report issued by Oxfam India showed.
“From 2012 to 2021, 40 percent of the wealth created in India has gone to just 1 percent of the population and only a mere 3 percent of the wealth has gone to the bottom 50 percent,” the report said.
The number of hungry Indians increased to 350 million last year from 190 million in 2018, with widespread hunger cited as the cause of 65 percent of deaths among children aged under five in 2022.
India’s total population is about 1.4 billion.
The latest data compilation showed “a sobering reality,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
“This shows a mirror to the country and to the world about the devastating reality that (India) is really becoming increasingly a country only for the rich people,” Behar told Arab News.
Behar called for “immediate, concrete actions,” warning that surging levels of inequality will have “enormous” political and social consequences.
“I would even say that we are looking at a huge crisis,” he said. “These levels of inequality are both obscene and unsustainable.
“The government should change its policy, otherwise there’s no doubt that the current road is going to lead us to disaster and growing inequality.”
The world’s top 1 percent grabbed almost two-thirds of the $42 trillion in new wealth created since 2020, Oxfam said in its global report, which is almost twice as much money as the amount gained by the remaining 99 percent combined.
Billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day, the report said.
In India, the wealth of the country’s richest man — Gautam Adani — rose by 46 percent in 2022.
Yet poor Indians were taxed more, while the rich benefited from tax exemptions.
About 64 percent the total goods and services tax in the country came from the bottom half of the population, the report said, while just 3 percent came from the top 10 percent.
Oxfam’s report, however, failed to capture the reality of the situation in India, said economist Arun Kumar.
“The income disparity is far more than what is reflected in the study,” Kumar told Arab News, adding that the reported figures did not reflect other income sources, such as those obtained illegally.
Kumar said that the wealth inequality demonstrates rising income disparity in India, which might lead to a slower economy.
“Income disparity leads to shortage of demand in the economy,” Kumar said. “The consequences would be that the economy will slow down.”
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