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When calamity equals major profit: why a windfall tax is the fairest way to ensure everybody benefits when big business booms

Over the past couple of years, 722 of the world’s biggest corporations have raked in more than $1 trillion in windfall profits. These massive, unexpected gains were made during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The numbers are truly mind-boggling.

While prices and interest rates are on the rise, these large corporations have been cashing in on the cost-of-living crisis that has left a quarter of a billion people in 58 countries facing acute hunger.

It’s obscene that energy companies, food and beverage corporations, banks, pharmaceutical companies, and major retailers have all been making massive profits even as 9,000 people die every day from hunger, much of that driven by conflicts and wars.

That’s why Oxfam and ActionAid are calling on governments to step up and put an end to profiteering by imposing a windfall profits tax. A windfall profits tax is a tax on the excess profits of big corporations due to external circumstances or events, like a war or a pandemic.

It’s all in the numbers

We took a deep dive into the recent Forbes data, and the numbers are staggering.

For instance, 18 food and beverage corporations pocketed an average of about USD $14 billion per year in windfall profits during 2021 and 2022. To put things into perspective, that’s enough to cover the $6.4 billion funding gap required to provide life-saving food assistance in East Africa more than twice over. Meanwhile, Oxfam estimates that one person is likely to die of hunger every 28 seconds in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan. To make matters worse, global food prices shot up by more than 14% in 2022.

But it doesn’t stop there. We also discovered that 28 drug corporations made an average of $47 billion per year in windfall profits, and 42 major retailers and supermarkets banked around $28 billion annually in windfall profits. In the aerospace and defence sector, nine corporations raked in an average of $8 billion per year in windfall profits. It’s astonishing how much money these companies are making while so many people are going without food and basic necessities or struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

In the absence of regulation or fair and progressive taxation, governments have essentially given these corporations a free pass to exploit the situation. It’s high time governments step up and tax these excessive profits earned by corporations across all sectors. If we were to impose a tax of 50–90% on these mega-corporations’ windfall profits, we could generate a staggering $523–$941 billion for the years 2021 and 2022 alone. This is money that could be used to help those struggling with hunger, soaring energy bills, and poverty in wealthy nations, as well as offer hundreds of billions of dollars in support to developing countries.

The well-being of the majority should always take precedence over the greed of a privileged few. If you’re as passionate about this as we are, then join us in signing the petition demanding billionaires pay their fair share in taxes. Together, we can make a difference and create a more just and equitable world for all.