…calls for high taxation of world’s super-rich to bridge inequality
…we’re not against wealthy persons
By Gabriel Ewepu
AS Davos 2023 conference of world leaders held next week in Switzerland, Oxfam in Nigeria, Monday, revealed that three richest Nigerians are currently wealthier than 83 million Nigerians..
The revelation was made known in a report titled ‘Davos 2023 Inequality Report’ unveiled during a press conference in Abuja by the Country Director, Oxfam in Nigeria, Dr Vincent Ahonsi, who was represented by the Deputy Programs Director/Budget Business Development Manager, Regina Afiemo, along with Executive Director, Connected Development, CD, Hamza Lawal, Coordinator Climate Justice Project, Oxfam in Nigeria, Kenneth Akpan, and Project Coordinator, Fiscal Accountability for Inequality Reduction, Henry Ushie.
Oxfam in Nigeria called for higher taxation of world’s super-rich persons to breach the inequality gap in many sectors, and added that for the past decade they extraordinarily grabbed half of all new wealth, which also billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day even as at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages.
Also the report pointed out that a tax of up to five per cent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.
According to the report, in Nigeria, the richest 0.003 per cent Nigerians (6, 355 individuals worth $5 million and above) have 1.4 times more wealth than 107 million Nigerians.
A wealth tax of two per cent on the millionaires, three per cent on those with wealth above $50 million and five per cent on the Nigerian billionaires would raise $3.2 billion annually. This would be enough to double health spending. Nigeria has one of the lowest health budgets in the world.
Oxfam is calling for more tax on billionaires and not workers and is a message sent to world leaders ahead of the World Economic Forum, WEF, orgainsed Davos 2023 where ‘Survival of the Richest’ is published on the opening day of the conference, while world elites are gathering in the Swiss ski resort as extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.
Ahonsi said: “The wealth of Nigeria billionaires has grown by a third since the start of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The richest men in Nigeria have more wealth than 83 million Nigerians. The richest one per cent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 per cent of the world’s population, reveals a new Oxfam report today. During the past decade, the rich one per cent had captured around half of all new wealth.
“For over five years, Nigeria spent an average of 9 per cent of its revenue on debt serving, and in 2020, before COVID, this was expected to be 29 per cent or 56 billion. This amount was almost four times the education and social protection budgets, six times the health budget and 14 times the agricultural budget.
“Despite Nigeria having one of the lowest tax to Gross Domestic Product, GDP ratios in the world with just 3.6 per cent in 2019, Nigeria spent 80.6 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing in 2022. While millions of Nigerians are unsure where their next Meals will come from, the super-rich are getting richer and not paying their fair share of taxes but taking advantage of the complexities and loopholes in the tax legislation as well as the lack of transparency and accountability in tax implementation, thereby depriving the country of the revenue needed for social protection and inequality reduction.”
He further stated that, “With widening inequality and 133 million (63 per cent) Nigerians suffering from multidimensional poverty, the richest people and corporations in Nigeria are unfazed and are getting richer.
“With over 20 million children out of school, it is inappropriate to continue to give five wealthy individuals and corporations tax breaks, incentives, and waivers.
He also lamented that, “With about six out of 10 Nigerians lacking access to quality primary healthcare services, a situation that is worsening disease outbreaks and out-of-pocket expenditure, it is unfair for the wealth of Nigeria billionaires to grow by a third since the start of COVID-19 pandemic without a corresponding increase in health budgets.”
However, he said to bridge the inequality gap, “Taxing the super-rich and big corporations is the door out of today’s overlapping crisis. It is time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. 40 years of tax cuts for the super-rich have shown that a rising tide doesn’t lift all ships-just super yachts.
“To have a more secure and prosperous society, Nigeria needs to purposely work to reduce inequality, generate more tax revenues from the rich, spend more on health, education, agriculture and social protection; and provide fair, inclusive, and gender-sensitive opportunities for its citizens,” he said.
Meanwhile, the report showed that taxes on the wealthiest used to be much higher. Over the last 40 years, governments across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas have slashed the income tax rates on the richest.
“At the same time, they have raised taxes on goods and services, which fall disproportionately on the poorest people and exacerbate gender inequality.”