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The richest 1% in Colombia rank fourth in wealth concentration in the region.

The richest 1% in Colombia rank fourth in wealth concentration in the region.
The richest 1% in Colombia rank fourth in wealth concentration in the region.

Oxfam presents its regional report on inequality at the Gabo Festival, which addresses the current situation of wealth in Latin America and the Caribbean, projecting the outlook for the coming years and proposing a series of fiscal measures to address these challenges.

The report examines the multiple interconnected crises facing the region, from structural problems such as high dependence on the primary sector and informality in the labour market, to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also highlights the need to reduce intersectional inequalities, promote climate justice and improve co-responsibility for unpaid domestic work.

According to statistics from the Oxfam report, Latin America and the Caribbean face one of the highest rates of inequality. There are 98 billionaires in the region whose combined wealth is US$480.8 billion, equivalent to the GDP of Chile and Ecuador combined. In Colombia, it is estimated that by 2022 the richest 1% will concentrate 33% of the wealth, while the poorest half of the population as a whole will only keep 4%. Oxfam presents these data in order to highlight the need for public policies that protect populations and the environment.

Colombia is one of the countries where the wealth of millionaires has grown exponentially. In 2000, there was only one billionaire with a net worth of USD$1.1 billion, and in 2024, there are 4 billionaires with a cumulative net worth of USD$25.2 billion. “This concentration of wealth contrasts with the situation of women in indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, who, according to DANE, reach 64.6% and 47.3% of poverty respectively, facing challenges in accessing basic services and economic opportunities,” says Sandra Patricia Mojica Enciso, director of Influence at Oxfam Colombia. Oxfam emphasizes the need for policies that redistribute wealth and improve the living conditions of marginalized populations and highlights that, although we all face the same storm, we do so in very different boats, emphasizing the need for policies with a human rights approach that respond to the needs of vulnerable populations.

Oxfam’s report is an urgent call to action. “The recommendations and analysis detailed in the report seek to mobilize governments, civil society and citizens to commit to a more just and equitable future. The implementation of these fiscal and political measures would not only contribute to closing inequality gaps, but would also contribute to building a more inclusive and resilient society in the face of global challenges,” says Ana María Upegui Cuartas, executive director of Oxfam Colombia.

The four sections of the Oxfam report

  1. It provides an x-ray of the polarization of wealth in Latin America and the Caribbean, showing how the trends of recent years have deepened inequalities. Oxfam highlights that the region faces one of the greatest disparities in the world, with the richest 1% accumulating a significant proportion of wealth, while the poorest 50% struggle to survive. This polarization has resulted in the impoverishment of large sectors and has called into question the effectiveness of current tax systems.
  1. Oxfam analyses the limits of the development model and democratic systems in Latin America and the Caribbean. The organisation criticises the inability of these systems to fulfil the promises of economic well-being and social inclusion. It points out that it is essential to adopt deep reforms that promote equity and social justice if we want to move towards a more just and prosperous region.
  2. The organisation proposes a minimum agenda of three priorities for the coming decades: reducing intersectional inequalities, promoting climate justice and encouraging co-responsibility for care work. Oxfam argues that these priorities must be at the centre of public decisions to ensure inclusive and sustainable development.
  1. Finally, a set of tax measures designed to increase public revenue collection and meet the region’s challenges is recommended: i) Apply a progressive tax to the richest ii) Tax income and capital gains at least at the level of labor income iii) Review and make transparent aggressive tax incentives for large companies iv) Set limits on tax evasion and avoidance v) Tax extraordinary profits of large companies. With these new resources, extreme poverty could be eradicated, national care systems established and public spending on actions against the climate crisis and the quality of life of highly vulnerable sectors could be tripled.

On promoting climate justice

One of the report’s key priorities is the promotion of climate justice. Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Oxfam highlights the need for policies that protect affected communities and promote environmental sustainability. The proposal to triple public spending on actions against the climate crisis is essential to ensure a sustainable future for the region.

The tax reforms proposed by Oxfam are essential to expand public revenue and finance essential social programs. These reforms include the implementation of progressive taxes and the elimination of tax exemptions that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. If the Colombian government taxes large fortunes with a tax between 2% and 5%, offshore wealth at 5%, reviews aggressive tax incentives for large companies and halves tax losses from the use of tax havens, it could achieve a potential collection of US$ 20 billion dollars equivalent to 6 points of GDP and could increase investment in education, health and care systems, significantly improving the quality of life of people, especially women.

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