Some stats for Davos: The richest 1 per cent own almost half the world's wealth

Global inequality in numbers.

As the world’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen and politicians fly into Davos for the annual World Economic Forum, and book into hotels like the Belvedere Hotel - which has stocked up on 1,594 bottles of champagne and prosecco, 80kg of salmon and 16,805 canapes to feed the high-profile delegates setting the world to rights – it’s worth revisiting Oxfam’s recent figures on the state of global inequality today:

1. The richest 1 per cent own almost half the world’s wealth ($110tn).

2. The richest 85 people own the same combined wealth as the poorest half of the world.

3. The richest 10 per cent own 86 per cent of all assets, while the poorest 70 per cent own just 3 per cent of the world’s assets.

4. The combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people is more than the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the EU between 2008 and 2010 (€217bn v €300bn).

5. The pre-tax income of the richest 1 per cent increased between 1980 and today in 24 out of 26 countries on the World Top Incomes Database. In China, Portugal and the US the incomes of the richest 1 more than doubled their share of national income in this period.

6. Since 1970, the tax on the richest has decreased in 29 out of 30 countries measured.

7. An estimated $18.5tn is held in offshore tax havens on behalf of multi-national companies and wealthy individuals. This is more than the GDP of the US.

8. Between 2008 and 2010 Sub-Saharan Africa lost $63.4bn in aid a year due to tax avoidance and evasion, more than twice the amount it received in aid.

You can read Oxfam’s report here.

Davos in Switzerland, where business leaders and politicians are meeting for the World Economic Forum. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt