‘The poor hurt’ as inequality rises ‘fast’: Oxfam

Wealth inequality is "rising fast", the head of international development charity Oxfam warned on Tuesday, the same day that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its forecast for global growth this year and next.

In a report published on Monday, an Oxfam report claimed that the combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent could overtake that of the remaining 99 percent by 2016.

"Inequality is rising, and rising fast … this is dangerous. It is bad for democracy and for stable societies and it is bad for (economic) growth. The poor hurt," Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International told CNBC Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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Byanyima, who will co-chair the forum's annual meeting, said she was attending in the hope of convincing business leaders of their responsibility to combat inequality and poverty.

"I am here to challenge the laggards and hold hands with the progressives," she told CNBC.

"The more I talk to business people here, the more I find they no longer talk just about the profit line. They really care about the social impact, the environmental impact they are having."

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Her words came after the IMF earlier Tuesday trimmed its global growth forecast for 2015-16 to 3.5 percent for this year and 3.7 percent for 2016, cautioning that the boost from lower crude oil prices would be offset by dimmer economic prospects for China, Russia, the euro area, Japan and oil producers.

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"It is true that many millions of people (across the world) have been lifted out of poverty, but it is also true that poverty is still with us," said Byanyima.

She noted that economic growth did not necessarily result in declining inequality.

"Zambia has been growing because of good copper prices and has now reached lower-middle income status. But the number of people living in extreme poverty in that country have increased," she told CNBC.