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JOHANNESBURG/NAIROBI: Analysing the Forbes’ 2023 edition of the 2,000 largest public companies in the world, Oxfam and Action Aid have found 722 companies made a combined windfall profit of US$1.09 trillion in 2021 and a further US$1.1 trillion in 2022.

They included the 45 largest oil and gas companies with US$474 billion; 18 food and beverage companies, US$28 billion; nine aerospace & defense companies made US$16 billion; 28 drug companies, US$94 billion; and 28 retailers a total US$46 billion in windfall profits.

Resulting in a record 96 energy billionaires with a combined wealth of nearly US$432 billion - US$50 billion more than 2022 - the two poverty remediation agencies note governments could have increased global investments in renewable energy by 31 percent had they taxed the shareholder givebacks from oil and gas companies at 90 percent.

“People are sick and tired of corporate greed. It’s obscene that corporations have raked in billions of dollars in extraordinary windfall profits while people everywhere are struggling to afford enough food or basics like medicine and heating,” commented Oxfam International interim executive director Amitabh Behar.

“Big business is gaslighting us all —they’re hiking prices to make monster profits, plundering people under the cover of a polycrisis.”

Oxfam and ActionAid say a tax of 50 to 90 percent on the windfall profits of 722 mega corporations could generate between US$523 billion and US$941 billion for 2021 and 2022 respectively. The money would be used to help people struggling with hunger, rising energy bills and poverty in rich countries, and to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to support countries in the Global South.

“Enough is enough. Government policy should not allow mega corporations and billionaires to profiteer from people’s pain. Governments must tax windfall profits of corporations across all sectors —and invest that money back in helping people and deterring future profiteering. They must put the interests of their great majorities ahead of the greed of a privileged few,” said ActionAid secretary general Arthur Larok.

“Taxing windfall profits is smart economic policy —it’s a very clear and direct source of money for development and tackling climate change. Piling more loans onto poorer countries is what makes absolutely no sense when debt is accelerating the climate crisis,” he continued.
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