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World's 10 richest men doubled their wealth during the pandemic, while most people got poorer, Oxfam reports

The wealth of the world's 10 richest people, as measured by Forbes, more than doubled between March 2020 and November 2021, advocacy group Oxfam reported Monday, rising to $1.5 trillion from about $700 billion. Meanwhile, the incomes of 99 percent of people in the world fell during the pandemic, Oxfam said, citing World Bank data. The group suggested a one-time global tax on billionaires. 

"Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic," Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher said Monday in a statement accompanying the charity's annual report. "Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom." 

If the world's 10 richest men — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, and Warren Buffett — lost 99 percent of their wealth, Bucher said, they would still be richer than 99 percent of all people on this planet. Musk's wealth grew by more than 1,000 percent during the pandemic, while Gates saw a more modest 30 percent rise in his fortune.

"Even during a global crisis our unfair economic systems manage to deliver eye-watering windfalls for the wealthiest but fail to protect the poorest," Oxfam Great Britain CEO Danny Sriskandarajah told BBC News. "There's been a new billionaire created almost every day during this pandemic, meanwhile 99 percent of the world's population are worse off because of lockdowns, lower international trade, less international tourism, and as a result of that, 160 million more people have been pushed into poverty." 

Stocks plummeted in March 2020, setting a low base to measure the spike in wealth, but even "if you take the wealth of billionaires in mid-February 2020 instead, we estimate that the increase in the top ten richest men is more like 70 percent," Max Lawson, one of the report's authors, told BBC News. That "would still represent a record breaking increase, and something the like of which we have never seen before."