in the money | 

Ireland’s nine billionaires grow wealth by €15bn during pandemic

Davos 2022 is off, and the event scheduled for last January was also cancelled. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Sarah Collins

Ireland’s nine billionaires have grown their wealth by more than €15bn since the start of the pandemic, new research from Oxfam has shown.

Irish billionaires - including Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison and media mogul Denis O’Brien - are now worth a combined €51bn, with their wealth growing more than 50pc since 2019, according to data from the Forbes rich list analysed by Oxfam.

The Oxfam research shows that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors are posting record-high profits, as deprivation grows among the less well off.

Five Irish energy companies - ESB, Energia, Bord Gais, SSE Airtricity and Energia Power - had combined yearly profits of €280m, with annual energy inflation up to 43.6pc and food prices rising 3.5pc.

Globally, food and energy billionaires saw their wealth increase $453bn (€427bn) in the last two years, Oxfam estimates, with 62 new “food billionaires” being created.

In Ireland, 691,587 people are experiencing deprivation, including 204,710 children.

Globally, 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, Oxfam said - a rate of one every 30 hours.

This year, the charity expects 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.

The research comes as the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos, Switzerland, the first in-person meeting since the pandemic hit.

“Billionaires arriving in Davos have seen an incredible surge in their fortunes,” said Oxfam Ireland chief executive officer Jim Clarken.

“Simply put, the pandemic followed by the steep increases in food and energy prices have been a bonanza for them.

“It is unconscionable that some are profiteering from the pandemic and its aftermath while others are trying to choose between paying their energy bills or going hungry.”

Globally, billionaires’ wealth rose more in the first 24 months of the pandemic than in 23 years combined, Oxfam said.

The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9pc of global gross domestic product, up from 4.4pc in 2000.

Oxfam estimates more than a quarter of a million people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022.

Oxfam wants governments across the world to impose windfall taxes on wealthy individuals and the most profitable large corporates, as well as introducing a permanent 2-5pc wealth tax on the super-rich.

Oxfam estimates a 1.5pc wealth tax on Irish millionaires worth more than €4m could raise €4bn in tax revenue, with an extra €0.7bn coming from a 1.5pc tax on Irish billionaires.

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