Number of billionaires in Asia Pacific expanded significantly since Covid outbreak

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Even more striking is the extreme and increased concentration of wealth at the top during this prolonged health and economic crisis

New Delhi: The number of billionaires in Asia Pacific has expanded significantly since the pandemic began. It reached 1,087 in November 2021, an increase of almost a third on pre-crisis figures, Oxfam said in a new report.

Even more striking is the extreme and increased concentration of wealth at the top during this prolonged health and economic crisis. In November 2021, the richest 1 per cent owned more wealth than the poorest 90 per cent in Asia Pacific, and the region’s billionaires had increased their wealth by 74 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

The additional wealth they accrued in this time ($1.88tn) is more than double the total wealth owned by the poorest 20 per cent of people in the region.

“Pandemic Profits”

Some billionaires have also benefited directly from the pandemic. As Credit Suisse notes in the 2020 World Wealth Report, one of Malaysia’s billionaire glove manufacturers doubled their wealth between February and June 2020.

Others became billionaires because of pandemic profits. By March 2021 there were 20 new Asian ‘pandemic’ billionaires (from China, Hong Kong, India and Japan) whose wealth came from equipment, pharmaceuticals and services needed for the pandemic response.

These include Li Jianquan and family, whose firm Winner Medical makes masks and personal protective equipment for health workers, and Dai Lizhong, whose company Sansure Biotech has produced Covid-19 tests and diagnostic kits.

“Economic Inequality in Asia”

Covid-19 has unleashed a health and economic crisis that is exposing and exacerbating high levels of economic inequality in Asia. While rich elites are able to protect their health and wealth, the poorest people and minorities face a greater risk of illness, death and destitution, according to Oxfam.

Coronavirus has widened the cracks in this unequal system, fuelling a pernicious cycle of poverty and economic inequality in Asia.

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