By Oxfam International
July 19, 2021

In response to Jeff Bezos’ space flight scheduled for Tuesday, Deepak Xavier, head of Oxfam International’s Global Inequality Campaign, said:

“We’ve now reached stratospheric inequality. Billionaires burning into space, away from a world of pandemic, climate change and starvation. 11 people are likely now dying of hunger each minute while Bezos prepares for an 11-minute personal space flight. This is human folly, not human achievement.

“The ultra-rich are being propped up by unfair tax systems and pitiful labor protections. US billionaires got around $1.8 trillion richer since the beginning of the pandemic and nine new billionaires were created by Big Pharma’s monopoly on the COVID-19 vaccines. Bezos pays next to no US income tax but can spend $7.5 billion on his own aerospace adventure. Bezos’ fortune has almost doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. He could afford to pay for everyone on Earth to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and still be richer than he was when the pandemic began.

“Billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes for our hospitals, schools, roads and social care, too. Governments must adopt a much stronger global minimum tax on multinational corporations and look at new revenues. A wealth tax, for example of just 3 percent, would generate $6 billion a year from Bezos’ $200 billion fortune alone ―a sixth of what the US spends on foreign aid. A COVID-19 profits tax on Amazon would yield $11 billion, enough to vaccinate nearly 600 million people.

“What we need is a fair tax system that allows more investment into ending hunger and poverty, into education and healthcare, and into saving the planet from the growing climate crisis ―rather than leaving it.”

Oxfam recently reported that global food prices have risen by 40 percent in the past year, which has contributed to 20 million more people having fallen into catastrophic conditions of hunger and a six-fold increase in famine-like conditions. Download Oxfam’s report: “The Hunger Virus Multiplies.”

Oxfam is calling for a response to the ongoing crisis that prioritizes support for workers and small businesses. It includes establishing a COVID-19 pandemic profits tax to ensure shared sacrifice, and the redeployment of resources away from those cashing in on the pandemic and toward those bearing the burden. For more information, download Oxfam’s report: “Power, Profits and the Pandemic: From corporate extraction for the few to an economy that works for all”.

Jeff Bezos’ net wealth has increased from $113 billion (Forbes’ Annual World’s Billionaires List, March 2020) to $207.9 billion (Forbes’ Real Time Billionaire List, 16 July 2021). The cost of vaccinating the world’s adult population was calculated as follows: two doses at $7 per dose for 5 billion people, for a total of $70 billion. This is based on the average cost per dose.

Oxfam does not endorse such high prices for vaccines and, as part of The People’s Vaccine Alliance, is campaigning for patent-free access to allow generic manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines to drive down prices.