(Teleborsa) – While because of Covid-19 the world sinks in the worst economic crisis since the post-war period in 2020 17 of the 25 top US companies in the pharmaceutical, information technology and credit sector will realize over 85 billion dollars of extra profits compared to the average 2016-2019. According to the estimates of the Pandemic Profits Exposed report , published today by Oxfam , taxing the exceptional profitability of these multinationals – including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Facebook, Apple, Google and Visa – would suffice to contain the pandemic.
“In the United States, some large corporations, particularly in the technology and pharmaceutical sector, record stratospheric profits due to the exceptional demand for their goods and services generated by the pandemic. In some cases, the increase in demand, – explains Nicholas Lusiani, Oxfam America’s policy advisor– led to unjustified price increases. Large companies were also recipients of the major forms of direct and indirect liquidity support. The point, however, is not so much the extraordinary level of profits made, but the destination of these profits. If the data for the first quarter of 2020 were confirmed throughout the year, 99% of the net profits made by 25 American majors would be destined for the exclusive distribution of dividends to shareholders or for equity buyback operations: not for productive investments or improvement of employees’ salaries. In an already highly unequal context, this company policy risks widening the already dramatic economic gaps in the United States “.
Suffice it to say that in the first quarter of 2020 the companies belonging to the S&P 500 Index recorded a decrease in profits of 12% with a forecast of a further decrease of 39% in the second quarter, while for small American companies profits have halved in the first three months of the year and a further 85% contraction is expected between April and June. In this scenario, Oxfam’s report estimates that the richest 1% of Americans (who owned 52% of US equities at the beginning of 2020) will go well beyond half of the 85 billion of extra profits made by companies, while at 90% poorer than Americans will only go 12%. The massive allocation of shareholder profits will further widen theeconomic inequality on an ethnic and gender basis. As many as 9 out of 10 dollars of extra profits , Oxfam estimates, will end up paying off investments by white Americans, while only 32 cents will benefit black and Hispanic communities. On the gender gap front, an unbalanced distribution of financial wealth between men and women weighs heavily: for every dollar invested in equity by men, today correspond only just 47 cents invested by American women.
For this reason Oxfam has launched an appeal to temporarily introduce in the United States a tax on the extra profits generated by the pandemic , on the model of that experienced on the war profits in the 1940s. A tax – Oxfam explains – “which would not concern small and medium-sized enterprises in difficulty, but only those companies which in the last few months have made on average greater profits than those of the period preceding the pandemic”.
“With this tool – underlined Luisiani – 80 billion dollars could be obtained from only 17 multinationals that despite having headquarters in the USA generate profits all over the world. Resources that could be used to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and stem the huge inequalities that the emergency is growing everywhere. In fact, according to Oxfam estimates, the proceeds would be sufficient to finance the development and distribution of free tests, therapies and vaccines for everyone , globally. Furthermore, it is a measure that can discourage the indiscriminate rise in the prices of goods and services and slow down the concentration of market power in a few hands “.
This exceptional and temporary measure for Oxfam should then be accompanied by structural and substantial reforms of international corporate taxation to stop harmful tax competition between States, including in the European Union, and to combat tax avoidance, which depresses the budgets of the States, called today to deal with the greatest economic and social emergency since the end of the Second World War, are precious resources.