“There needs to be resource mobilization to deal with those situations — those extreme situations — we’re dealing with now,” Bucher said on the only panel on taxation on the official Davos program. “Something that can really change things is tax.”
Given the magnitude of the crisis, governments must think seriously about taxing wealth accumulated by the world’s richest people, Bucher told CNN Business. Even taxing wealth at relatively low levels, she emphasized, could make a big difference.
Last year, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen proposed taxing billionaires on unrealized gains in their assets. Right now, taxes are only levied when they’re sold.
Yet wealth taxes failed to generate much conversation in the Swiss Alps this week, even as attendees sounded the alarm on the looming hunger crisis.
“We haven’t seen a huge history of success,” for wealth taxes, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said during the panel debate. “It’s true that on the perceived fairness and equity front — in terms of the politics of it — it’s attractive, but in terms of what it actually achieves in substance, it’s not that attractive.”
UN World Food Programme Chief David Beasley told CNN Business that climate change and the war in Ukraine could generate widespread famines later this year. That would result in the destabilization of many countries and could trigger mass migration.
“What breaks your heart is that there’s $430 trillion of wealth on Planet Earth today,” Beasley said. When his organization “doesn’t have enough money,” he continued, it has to “choose which child eats.”
But as the surging cost of living becomes a major problem for lower-income households in both developed and developing nations, governments are increasingly willing to implement measures they’d eschewed previously.
At the forum, wealth taxes remained a B-list talking point. For Phil White, a British millionaire who traveled to Davos for a small protest that called for higher taxes on the wealthy — himself included — that was a missed opportunity.
“We’re going to see rising inequality from both rising energy and food prices,” White said. “Wealth taxes can play an immediate part in doing something about that.”