Global billionaire wealth increases by $ 4 trillion following pandemic
By Chuck Collins, Omar Ocampo
As more than 2.8 million people have died worldwide from Covid-19 in the past year, the wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased.
The planet’s 2,365 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $ 4 trillion, or 54%, during the pandemic year. Their combined wealth increased from $ 8.04 trillion to $ 12.39 trillion between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021.
Thirteen billionaires have seen their wealth increase by more than 500% (see the “500% Club” below). Many of them are linked to companies that have profited tremendously from the conditions of the pandemic, including closing or lessening their competition.
There are 270 new billionaires on this year’s global list, while 91 billionaires have fallen off the list.
The analysis was conducted for Patriotic Millionaires (and their affiliated British Millionaires) and Millionaires for Humanity by the Institute for Policy Studies-Program on Inequality, drawing on research from Forbes, Bloomberg, and Wealth-X.
Globally, the richest 20 billionaires have a combined wealth of $ 1.83 trillion – with an increase of $ 742 billion, or 68%, in the pandemic year. In comparison, Spain’s GDP in 2019 was US $ 1.3 trillion.
As billionaires grew richer, the pandemic shrank the global economy by 3.5% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund. COVID-19 has been an accelerator of global inequalities, with acute negative impacts on women, youth, the poor, informal workers and those working in contact-intensive sectors.
The need for wealth taxation
If the world’s billionaires had paid an annual wealth tax in 2020, modeled on the Ultra-Millionaire Tax proposed by US Senator Elizabeth Warren, they would have paid around $ 345 billion in wealth taxes. Based on current expectations of wealth growth, a small wealth tax like this would increase $ 4.14 trillion over the next decade. Of course, there is no institutional body to levy such a global wealth tax, for information only.
The “ultra-millionaire tax” would levy a wealth tax of 2% per annum on assets over $ 50 million – and a 3% tax on assets over $ 1 billion. Our estimates follow this law by exempting wealth below $ 50 million and tax assets between $ 50 million and $ 1 billion at a rate of 2%.
The annual revenue from this wealth tax would be more than double the estimate $ 141.2 billion cost of delivering COVID-19 vaccines to every person on the planet, Oxfam estimates.
The United States represents less than a third of the wealth of billionaires on the global list. In the United States alone, if this tax were applied to American billionaires on the Forbes list of billionaires, it generate $ 120 billion a year, or $ 1.5 trillion over the next decade.
Wealth in the UK:
In the United Kingdom, between March 2020 and 2021, the 54 British billionaires saw their wealth increase by 40 billion pounds (54.9 billion dollars), a gain of 36%. Their combined wealth increased from £ 112.3 billion (US $ 154 billion) to £ 152.36 billion (US $ 208.9 billion).
In the same year, the UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% and the number of people receiving universal credit – a social payment that supports unemployed or low-income people – rose 98% to reach 6 million people.
In December 2020, the UK Wealth Tax Commission recommended that a one-time UK wealth tax of 1% over 5 years could generate £ 260 billion if applied to people with wealth over half a million pounds. If the UK’s 54 billionaires paid a one-time 5% wealth tax, exempting £ 500,000, that would bring in around US $ 8.6 billion, or £ 6.28 billion.
Wealth gains in the event of a pandemic: the 500% club
Fourteen global billionaires have seen their wealth increase by more than 500% during the pandemic. Here they are, along with a summary of their percentage gain and the amount of wealth increased over the past year.
- Zhong Shanshan (3300% gain / $ 66 billion), Saw his wealth increase by 3,300% during the pandemic year, from $ 2 billion to $ 68 billion. The increase in wealth is the result of the IPO of two of its companies in 2020, Nongfu bottled water and Beijing Wantai Organic Pharmacy.
- Tatyana Bakalchuk (gain of 1,200% / $ 12 billion), Founded e-commerce clothing company, Wildberries. His wealth increased by $ 12 billion during the pandemic, from $ 1 billion to $ 13 billion.
- Zuo Hui (714% / $ 15.9 billion gain), China. Chairman of Homelink, China’s largest real estate brokerage firm. Wealth increased by $ 15.9 billion, from $ 2.2 billion to $ 17.9 billion
- Bom Kim (670% / gain of $ 6.7 billion), Wealth increased 670% from $ 1 billion to $ 7.7 billion in the pandemic year. Founder of e-commerce giant Coupang, the Amazon of South Korea. Kim’s fortune reached $ 11 billion after the company went public in early March.
- Dan Gilbert (642% / $ 41.7 billion gain), Owner of Quicken Loans, which capitalized on cloistered citizens by taking advantage of online financing. His wealth increased 641.5% from $ 6.5 billion to $ 48.2 billion in the pandemic year.
- Cheng Yixiao (614% / $ 13.5 billion gain), Co-founder of Kuaishou, a Beijing-based video platform. His wealth increased by $ 13.5 billion, from $ 2.2 billion to $ 15.7 billion during the pandemic year.
- Su Hua (583% / gain of $ 16.9 billion), Also co-founder of the video platform and live streaming app, Kuaishu. Hua’s wealth increased by $ 16.9 billion during the pandemic year, from $ 2.9 billion to $ 19.8 billion.
- Ernest Garcia II (567 percent / $ 13.6 billion), WE. Wealth increased 566.7% from $ 2.4 billion to $ 16 billion in the pandemic year. First shareholder of Carvana, the online car sales and self-financing giant.
- Elon Musk (559% / gain of $ 137.5 billion), Musk is now the third richest person in the world, as his shares in Tesla, Space-X and other companies he owns continue to
climb. His wealth increased 558.9%, from $ 24.6 billion to $ 162.1 billion in the pandemic year (down $ 9.9 billion from March 17, 2021, fluctuating therefore enormously).
- Brian Armstrong (550% / gain of $ 5.5 billion), WE. Managing Director of Coinbase, the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. Wealth increased 550% from $ 1 billion to $ 6.5 billion in the pandemic year.
- Chan Tan Ching-Fen (540%, gain of $ 8.1 billion), Hong Kong. The wealth comes from the Hang Lung Group, a large real estate company founded by her late husband. Wealth increased by $ 1.5 billion to $ 9.6 billion, an increase of $ 8.1 billion from the pandemic year.
- Bobby Murphy (531% / gain of $ 10.1 billion), WE. Wealth increased 531% from $ 1.9 billion to $ 12 billion in the pandemic year. Co-founder of Snapchat, with his brother from the Stanford fraternity, Evan Spiegel (490% / $ 9.3 billion gain).
- Forrest Li (500%, gain of $ 9.5 billion), Li’s wealth increased by $ 9.5 billion from $ 1.9 billion to $ 11.4 billion in the pandemic year. He is the owner of the online gaming and e-commerce platform Sea.
Check out the report HERE and the full digital worksheet on Global Billionaires HERE.
Chuck Collins heads the Inequality and the Common Good program at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he also co-edits Inequality.org. Omar Ocampo is a researcher for the Inequalities and the Common Good Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Previously posted on Inequality.org with Creative Common License
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