UN chief urges wealth tax of those who profited during COVID

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FILE - In this April 7, 2021, file photo, people attend the burial of a relative who died from complications related to COVID-19 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nations around the world set new records Thursday, April 8, for COVID-19 deaths and new coronavirus infections, and the disease surged even in some countries that have kept the virus in check. Brazil became just the second country, after the U.S., to report a 24-hour tally of COVID-19 deaths exceeding 4,000. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

CAMEROON – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared Monday that the world’s failure to unite on tackling COVID-19 created wide inequalities, and he called for urgent action including a wealth tax to help finance the global recovery from the coronavirus.

The U.N. chief said latest reports indicate that “there has been a $5 trillion surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year” of the pandemic. He urged governments “to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities.”

Guterres' call followed an appeal in October by U.N. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley to the more than 2,000 billionaires in the world, with a combined net worth of $8 trillion, to open their bank accounts. He warned in November that 2021 would be worse than 2020, and without billions of dollars “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.”

Guterres told the U.N. Economic and Social Council’s Forum on Financing for Development that since the pandemic began “no element of our multilateral response has gone as it should."

He pointed to more than 3 million deaths, increasing coronavirus infections, the worst recession in 90 years, some 120 million people falling back into extreme poverty, and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs lost.

“Advancing an equitable global response and recovery from the pandemic is putting multilateralism to the test,” he said. “So far, it is a test we have failed."

“The vaccination effort is just one example,” Guterres said, stressing that just 10 countries account for around 75% of global vaccinations and many countries haven’t even started vaccinating their health care workers and most vulnerable citizens.

“Some estimates put the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion,” he said.