NEW DELHI: A new report by Oxfam has concluded that by next year, 2016, 80 of the world’s richest people (as determined by the Forbes billionaire list) will own half the world’s wealth. That’s right. 80 people will own as much money as 3.5 million, the latter also known as the world’s poorer half.

According to the Oxfam report, these richest 80 had a net wealth of $1.3 trillion in 2010. By 2014, they had $1.9 trillion — an increase of $600 billion in four years. Meanwhile, the total wealth of the poorest half of the world was decreasing over that period. If current trends continue -- which is likely -- the richest 1 percent will exceed 50 percent of world wealth by 2016.

Currently, the richest 1 percent owns 48 percent of the world’s wealth -- a dismal enough figure. Last year, a similar Oxfam report noted that the world’s richest 85 individuals shared a combined wealth of £1tn, equivalent to the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population. Further, the wealth of the top 1%, amounted to $110tn, about 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world.

(The figure above shows the share of global wealth of the top 1% and bottom 99% respectively; Credit Suisse data available 2000 – 2014. Credit: Oxfam 2015).

As the figure shows, in 2014, the richest percent of people in the world owned 48 percent of global wealth, leaving just 52 percent to be shared between the other 99 percent of adults on the planet. Almost all of that 52 percent is owned by those included in the richest 20 percent, leaving just 5.5 percent for the remaining 80 percent of people in the world. If this trend continues of an increasing wealth share to the richest, the top 1 percent will have more wealth than the remaining 99 percent of people in just two years

(The figure above shows the share of global wealth of the top 1% and bottom 99% respectively; the dashed lines project the 2010 – 2014 trend. By 2016, the top 1% will have more than 50% of total global wealth. Credit: Oxfam 2015).

“Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further,” the report states, drawing attention to the perpetuation of the cycle.

Economic policy has historically focused on only one-half of the inequality equation - ending extreme poverty. While there has been great progress toward this direction, reports like Oxfam’s “Working for the Few” highlight the importance of taking the other half of the inequality equation, specifically - the increasing concentration of wealth in the hand of a tiny elite, into account while identifying development goals and objectives.