In Numbers: Extreme Wealth Vs Corporate Power

In Numbers: Extreme Wealth Vs Corporate Power

By Syed Sadain Gardazi

Forbes Middle East : he fortunes of the world’s five wealthiest people have surged by a massive 114% since 2020, rising from $405 billion to $869 billion by the end of November 2023 at a rate of $14 million per hour. In stark contrast, around five billion people, representing 60% of the global population, have become poorer during the same period, facing hardship and hunger.

Billionaire wealth

Oxfam’s recent report titled “Inequality Inc.” highlights a grave disparity between billionaires and the working class and explores the correlation between extreme wealth and corporate power.

It reveals that even though the rich countries in the global north account for 21% of the global population, they are home to 69% of the global private wealth and 74% of the world’s billionaire wealth.

Rapidly rising billionaire wealth is deeply connected with rising corporate power as the profits reaped by mega-corporations are used to benefit shareholders at the cost of the working class and ordinary people. The wealthiest 1% own 43% of all global financial assets; this inequality is even more in certain regions: 47% in Europe, 48% in the Middle East, and 50% in Asia are controlled by the top 1%. In 2022, the top 50 U.S. billionaires held 75% of their wealth in the form of equities in the firms that they head.

Corporate power

Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest publicly-listed corporates have a billionaire either as the CEO or a principal shareholder, and cumulatively, these corporations’ total market cap is worth $10.2 trillion – equaling the combined GDP of all Latin American and African countries.

The voting rights held by principal shareholders allow them to vote in the CEO and board of directors’ selection process. This control is used for the further expansion of corporate power by increasing market concentration and monopoly, and this deepened corporate power is used for profit maximization. Over 11% of the global billionaires have either run for office or become politicians.



Meanwhile, the monopoly power of corporations has been deepening, with 60 pharmaceutical companies consolidating into ten giant “Big Pharma” firms between 1995 and 2015, two international companies currently controlling over 40% of the global seed market, “Big Tech” firms Meta, Alphabet, and Amazon, dominating three-quarters of the global online advertisement market, and over 90% of online searches worldwide being done via Google. Private equity firms have also followed similar practices with the “Big Three” index fund managers— BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard—cumulatively managing close to one-fifth of all assets under management worldwide, worth around $20 trillion.

The report terms monopolies and billionaires as two sides of the same coin, saying that the latter is much more common in sectors with a higher degree of monopoly power. Examples include LVMH CEO and Chairman Bernard Arnault (luxury market), Amazon’s Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos (e-commerce), Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote (cement), Julio Ponce Lerou (lithium), and Softbank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son (semiconductors, etc.).

Oxfam warned that if these trends continue, the world could have its first trillionaire within the next 10 years, while it could take 229 years to eradicate poverty.

Forbes Middle East 

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