- Middle East Business News
Wednesday, 30 September 2020
The World's 50 Richest Arabs
Rich today, rich tomorrow?
Saturday, 19 December 2009

The world's fifty richest Arab businessmen and woman are worth $207bn, which is an incredible figure, even before you consider that somehow or other they have contrived to squeeze an extra $4.5bn (on last year's figure) out of the last twelve months - a time which historians will one day refer to as the decade when capitalism broke.

The loudest applause must be reserved for HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, both of whom have managed to increase their personal fortunes to the tune of one billion dollars. Over the last eighteen months, it has at times been easy to forget that money is in fact a man-made construct, such has been the threat it has seemingly posed to mankind.

At the start of this year, as the world's leaders gathered in prominent locations to pledge that they would stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight back against money, it seemed that the era of massive profits had come to an abrupt end, to be replaced by a time of consolidation, at best. HRH Prince Alwaleed and Sheikh Al Jaber have proved, however, that the sun doesn't need to be shining to make huge sums of cash.

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That said, it will be interesting to see how the 50 tycoons listed over the following pages fare in 2010, when the effects of bad debt both at home and abroad start to be fully felt. Fortunes built on real estate will have a hard time of it, as will billionaires with exposure to the banks that are widely expected to write off huge sums of unwisely invested cash in the first quarter of 2010.

In the same way that there was a delay between the credit crunch wreaking havoc in the West and then the Arab world, so there is lag between its effects on the very rich.

Enjoy this year's rich list, but keep it to compare with next year's.

Talking of fighting back against cash, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken the extraordinary measure of imposing a 50 percent ‘supertax' on bankers' bonuses. Either this move will be copied by every other country in the world quick smart, or Britain will have the worst financial year in recorded history in 2010 as every bank in the square mile relocates to somewhere that treats them in a less draconian fashion. Like Berlin. Or, whisper it, Dubai?

Taxing the bankers punitively might be a popular move, but given that industry now makes up only fourteen percent of Britain's GDP, punishing the gang of suits who broke the world, but before that were the sole reason the British economy was the fourth largest on the planet for over a decade, seems self defeating at best.

Yes, bankers are paid obscenely, but then they are out there on the front line of the free market, and the thing with free markets is that if you meddle with them, problems occur. Like the market disappearing and then reappearing elsewhere. That is not something that Britain can allow to happen.

That said, the problem with bonuses goes deeper than making a lot of people angry and ramping up house prices in the major cities of the world. For the last fifteen years, nearly all bright kids have been gravitating straight from university to work for banks because the rewards on offer in the financial sector are so much better than they are in any other sector.

But there is an argument that says that if the best minds in the developed world were employed more evenly across sectors such as education, agriculture, medicine and construction, the world's economy might not have proved so fragile. It's time there was concerted international pressure to get rid of disproportionately huge bonuses altogether.

Damien Reilly is the editor of Arabian Business English.



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