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Kenya’s top two richest people have more wealth than 16.5 million Kenyans

By Remie Otieno

Kenya’s top two billionaires have more wealth between them than a combined 16.5 million Kenyans, new research has claimed.

In a study published yesterday, Oxfam International, a global charity organisation that fights inequality, lists Sameer Naushad Merali and Bhimji Depar Shah as Kenya’s top tycoons with fortunes of $790 million (Sh89.6 billion) and $750 million (Sh85 billion) respectively – an amount the report says is enough to increase government health budget by 36 percent.

Available data shows that Kenya has the highest Health Budget in East Africa which currently stands at Sh121.1 Billion for the year 2021 – an allocation that has been snowballing over the past few years.

In its estimations, the study further found that an annual wealth tax applied to the wealth of multi-millionaires is more than $900 million a year, enough to reduce households’ out of pocket health costs.

“Between 2016 and 2021, the number of households with wealth over $50 million increased from 80 to 120. Their combined wealth increased from $12.73 billion to $17.4 billion, an increase of 36.8 percent, adjusted for inflation,” notes the report on the Super-Rich individuals believed to have accumulated more wealth during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In fact a similar report by Swiss-based financial conglomerate Credit Suisse released last June, showed that number of super-rich Kenyans grew by an astounding 27, 473 a year earlier – the year Covid-19 was first reported in the country in March 2020 – who multiplied their wealth amid challenges experienced during the pandemic.

Wealth tax is a charge levied on the total or market value of personal assets. Also known as capital tax or equity tax, wealth tax was imposed on the richer sections and mainly targets the super-rich with hefty assets either received through legacy or earned on their own.

As a result, the Oxfam report has recommended the Kenyan government to instead use wealth taxation to trim down the number of extremely wealthy individuals in order to offer equality among all Kenyans – most of whom are just getting by owing to tough economic conditions.

“Beyond the objective of raising revenue, it is also legitimate to use wealth taxation to fundamentally reduce the total numbers of billionaires and multi-millionaires. We have also modelled the revenue from a 10 percent annual wealth tax on the world’s billionaires, which would seek to steadily reduce the total number of billionaires in the world,” recommended the study.

The firm’s figures are based on data from Wealth-X, an organisation that tracks the records of the world’s wealthiest individuals. The charity said the data was up to date as at November 30, 2021.

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