The 8 men who are as rich as half the world

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DAVOS, Switzerland: The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men -Bill Gates, (pictured above) Michael Bloomberg, etc – owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday.

Presenting its findings on the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, anti-poverty organisation Oxfam says the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago. It’s urging leaders to do more than pay lip-service to the problem.

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If not, it warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes akin to last year’s election of Donald Trump as US president and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”

The same report a year earlier said that the richest 62 people on the planet owned as much wealth as the bottom half of the population. However, Oxfam has revised that figure down to eight following new information gathered by Swiss bank Credit Suisse Group AG.

Oxfam used Forbes‘ billionaires list that was last published in March 2016 to make its headline claim.

According to the Forbes list, Microsoft Corp founder Gates is the richest individual with a net worth of $75 billion. The others, in order of ranking, are Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of fashion house Inditex SA, financier Warren Buffett, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, Amazon.com Inc boss Jeff Bezos, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle Corp’s Larry Ellison and Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

Oxfam outlined measures that it hopes will be enacted to help reduce the inequality.

They include higher taxes on wealth and income to ensure a more level playing field and to fund investments in public services and jobs, greater cooperation among governments on ensuring workers are paid decently and the rich don’t dodge their taxes. And business leaders should commit to paying their fair share of taxes and a living wage to employees.

Max Lawson, Oxfam’s policy adviser, urged billionaires to “do the right thing,” and to do “what Bill Gates has called on them to do, which is pay their taxes.”

The ability of the rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes was vividly exposed last year in the so-called “Panama Papers,” a leaked trove of data that revealed details on offshore accounts that helped individuals shelter their wealth.

“We have a situation where billionaires are paying less tax often than their cleaner or their secretary,” Lawson told the Associated Press. “That’s crazy.”

-AP