Society

Latin American billionaires' fortunes surged by $48.2 billion since the beginning of the pandemic

The region gathers 73 billionaires and their combined wealth raised $413 million each day of the pandemic, says Oxfam

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  • In the region, one new billionaire has emerged every two weeks since March;
  • Oxfam ponders that Latin American governments are under-taxing the wealthiest individuals.

Although Latin America is one of the worst regions affected by the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, Latin American billionaires have seen its fortunes grow by $48.2 billion since the beginning of the pandemic, said Oxfam NGO.

The region now gathers 73 billionaires, with one new billionaire emerging every two weeks since March. According to Oxfam, Brazil’s 42 billionaires increased their combined net worth from $123.1 billion in March to $157.1 billion in July, while Chile’s seven richest saw their combined fortunes increase by 27% to $26.7 billion.

READ ALSO: The 10 richest Latin Americans in 2020

Oxfam ponders that Latin American governments are under-taxing the wealthiest individuals, which is undermining their fight against poverty and inequality. The NGO estimates that the region will waive $113.4 billion in tax revenue this year, equivalent to 59% of spending on public health in the region.

The NGO also says that getting individuals with fortunes over $1 million to pay between 2 to 3.5% tax depending on their net wealth in 2020 would allow Latin American governments to raise up to $14.2 billion in tax revenue, which could be spent on healthcare and social safety nets. The figure is 50 times the amount that is likely be collected this year from the region’s billionaires.  

According to the report, the average investment in health by Latin American countries is 4% of GDP, half the amount invested by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

READ ALSO: World Bank foresees that 53 million Latin Americans will have incomes below the regional poverty line

Oxfam International Interim Executive Director Chema Vera said that billionaires magnifying their net worth represent the inequality levels in the region. “While everyone else is locked down, trying to survive and living in fear of getting sick, Latin American billionaires were doubling down on their fortunes and privileges to the tune of over $413 million for each and every day of the pandemic so far”.

READ ALSO: Michelle Bachelet points out the four big issues Latin America needs to face while fighting the pandemic

The virus has expanded through Latin America not because of indiscipline, but because of inequality as epitomized by the region’s huge informal economy and its lack of safety nets, and by governments under-taxing those with the most wealth. People face a dilemma: stay home and starve or risk trying to make a living. The super-rich owe a huge debt to our societies and it’s more than time they pay their fair share.

Chema Vera, Oxfam International Interim Executive Director