The world’s 20 richest people are poorer by $20 billion, according to the latest Forbes rich list. Can we describe them now as “poor little rich guys”, as was said of the comic-book character Richie Rich? The makers of old money may be blaming the slowing world economy that is yet to emerge from the 2008 crisis. Share prices have fallen almost as precipitously as the price of oil in the last year and the combined wealth of the world’s top 20 richest people shrank by about $72 billion while the number of billionaires fell by about 16.
The titans of the new economy, like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, who qualify as nouveau riche, are not complaining, though, as their net worth has gone up steeply, most of all in the Facebook founder’s case. India’s e-tailers, like Sachin and Binny Bansal of Flipkart, are the newest billionaires in the super-rich club, which goes to show that the new economy is doing things for Indians too even as the old order remains much the same with Mukesh Ambani at the very top.
The ones complaining the most, apart from idealistic students, are probably charities who keep pointing out the yawning gap between the rich and the poor as laid bare by statistics which show that the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer 3.5 billion people of a world of 7 billion. There is something so warped about such uneven distribution of wealth, measured in terms of printed currency, that people are calling for at least a crackdown on tax havens that allow the super-rich and corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.