Two studies presented this Monday (23), the opening day of the World Economic Forum, warn of a record increase in social inequality and a possible lack of food related to the pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Aimed at the wealthy, the World Economic Forum is recognized for bringing together the world’s top business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. This year, the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, represents the Brazilian government at the event, which ends on Thursday (26).
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Taking advantage of the beginning of the forum, the NGO Oxfam released this Monday morning the report “Profiting from Pain”, which points out how the world’s billionaires became even richer by making money from the problems faced by the poor population in the pandemic.
“The wealth of billionaires rose to a record high during the Covid-19 pandemic as companies in the food, pharmaceutical, energy and technology sectors profited,” the document’s introductory text reads. The report presents alarming data on inequality.
According to Oxfam, in the pandemic, a billionaire appeared in the world every 30 hours – there were 573 since 2020, the year in which the WHO (World Health Organization) declared a health emergency. Meanwhile, also every 30 hours, 1 million people fell into extreme poverty.
Today, there are 2,668 billionaires in the world. They have together US$ 12.7 trillion (R$ 61 trillion), equivalent to 13.9% of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all countries on the globe. The wealth of billionaires, in fact, grew by 42% during the pandemic.
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The income of 99% of people fell during the Covid crisis, according to Oxfam. This is because 125 million people have lost their formal jobs since 2020.
“Billion dollar wealth and corporate profits have skyrocketed, reaching record levels during the pandemic, while more than 250 million people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty in 2022”, compared the report by Oxfam, an organization that has 3,000 partners and operates in 90 countries.
The report cites data from the sectors that most profited from the pandemic and contributed to the growth of inequality. The pharmaceutical sector alone, which produces vaccines against covid-19, has gained 40 new billionaires since 2020.
“Pharmaceutical giants are making more than $1,000 a second from vaccine alone, and charging governments up to 24 times what it would cost to produce vaccines generically,” the document says.
Oxfam also looks at the profits of technology and energy companies. “The profit margin of the big oil companies doubled during the pandemic. The price of energy has seen the biggest increase since 1973.”
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The text also pointed to the growth of profits of companies in the field of production and sale of food, driven by high prices. He highlighted that food had an increase of 33.6% in 2021, and is expected to increase by 23% this year.
“Oxfam estimates that 263 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year because of Covid-19, rising global inequality and the impact of rising food prices, further burdened by the war in Ukraine.”
Another study presented on Monday deals exclusively with the effect of the war between Russia and Ukraine on the price and distribution of food. In this case, the document was produced by the World Economic Forum itself, based on a survey of chief economists at 24 of the world’s largest banks.
According to them, the war destabilized the sector’s production and logistics. Therefore, there is a risk of food shortages in some parts of the world, which tends to raise prices.
According to a report from the forum, in 2020, 36 countries bought more than half of the wheat that they import annually from Russia or Ukraine, countries that have been at war since February and that today have difficulties exporting their production.
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The report also cites the worldwide shortage of fertilizers, which are also produced in Russia and Ukraine. He says this could affect soy production in Brazil and, consequently, meat production in China, which depends on soy to feed animals.
according to Brazil de facto has already shown, the closing of three Petrobras fertilizer plants during the governments of Michel Temer (MDB) and Jair Bolsonaro (PL) increased Brazil’s dependence on fertilizers from Russia. The country ruled by Vladimir Putin is where 23% of the import of this type of product comes from.
Data from the National Association for the Diffusion of Fertilizers (Anda) tabulated by the consultancy StoneX indicated that, still in 2020, about 84% of the fertilizers used by Brazilian farmers were already imported. This percentage of imports is the highest ever recorded in more than 20 years – and is expected to increase.
Editing: Felipe Mendes