An analysis released Thursday shows that 722 of the world’s top corporations made combined windfall profits of $1 trillion per year in 2021 and 2022 as people across the planet struggled to meet basic needs due to the price hikes that businesses have used to pad their bottom lines.
The humanitarian groups Oxfam and ActionAid found that the companies raked in $1.09 trillion in windfall profits—defined as profits significantly above a given corporation’s average—in 2021 and $1.1 trillion last year.
That’s an 89% increase in total profits compared to the average between 2017 and 2020, according to Oxfam and ActionAid’s analysis of Forbes’ “Global 2000” ranking of the world’s largest companies—a major windfall during a period in which extreme poverty and global hunger surged.
The two groups found that “45 energy corporations made on average $237 billion a year in windfall profits in 2021 and 2022” while “food and beverage corporations, banks, Big Pharma, and major retailers also cashed in on the cost-of-living crisis that has seen more than a quarter of a billion people in 58 countries hit by acute food insecurity in 2022.”
The windfall profits of leading food and beverage companies in 2021 and 2022 would be “enough to cover the $6.4 billion funding gap needed to deliver life-saving food assistance in East Africa more than twice over,” Oxfam and ActionAid noted.
“People are sick and tired of corporate greed,” Amitabh Behar, Oxfam’s interim executive director, said in a statement. “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.”
“Big business is gaslighting us all—they’re hiking prices to make monster profits, plundering people under the cover of a polycrisis,” Behar added.
“Government policy should not allow mega-corporations and billionaires to profiteer from people’s pain.”
Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently conceded that corporate profiteering has been a major contributor to price increases that have fueled cost-of-living crises worldwide. Last month, IMF economists estimated that “rising corporate profits account for almost half the increase in Europe’s inflation over the past two years as companies increased prices by more than spiking costs of imported energy.”
Oxfam and ActionAid argued that governments should “claw back gains driven by profiteering” by imposing a 50-90% windfall tax on the profits of major corporations.
The groups said such a tax would generate hundreds of billions of dollars a year in revenue that could be used to lift people out of poverty, reduce hunger, slash energy bills, and support Global South nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
“Enough is enough,” said Arthur Larok, secretary-general of ActionAid. “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.”
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