TO be a billionaire in most of the world’s currencies, except those that are valueless, is a feat. When the figures are reckoned in dollars, they set the individuals apart and present for them challenges that are no longer ordinary.
Annually, Forbes magazine publishes a list of the world’s billionaires. Forbes claims the list is for those whose wealth is verifiable. Some billionaires could fail the magazine’s criteria, meaning it is not an exhaustive list of the super rich.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who was listed in 2008 with $2 billion, is now worth $13.8 billion and ranked 51st in this year’s record-breaking list of 1,210. Another Nigerian on the list is Michael Adenuga, rated 597th. He is worth $2 billion. Egypt led other African countries with eight billionaires. South Africa has four and Nigeria two.
The 2011 billionaires have a combined wealth of $4.5 trillion. Of the 214 new names on the list, Brazil, Russia, India, and China produced 108 and the four countries are home to 302 of the world’s billionaires.
Other record changes appeared on the 2011 list. The United States was the only country to have produced more than 100 billionaires.
China now has 115 and Russia 101. Mexican’s Carlos Slim Helú, a telecommunications mogul added $20.5 billion to his fortune last year for a new worth of $74 billion to remain number one ahead of Bill Gates ($56 billion) and Warren Buffett ($50 billion).
Yet in the midst of these super rich are more than 2.2 billion people who are rated extremely poor. Why are they poor? Why will they remain poor?
A theory for the perpetual cycle of poverty, by Ruby K. Payne, in her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, states that poor people have their own culture with a different set of values and beliefs which keep them trapped within that cycle generation to generation. Payne describes these rules and how they affect the poor.
Time is something, she said, that is treated differently by the poor; they generally do not plan but simply live in the moment, which keeps them from saving money, which will help their children escape poverty.
What this theory fails to consider is that those in excruciating poverty only thinking of survival, the next meal. How can they save? How can they train their children?
Education, employment opportunities, improved health facilities, and something as important as safe drinking water (though neglected) are areas where the super rich, if they deployed their resources, can pull some of the world’s poorest to living standards that will make them human again.
Africa and South East Asia, which produce most of the startling global statistics on poverty, can do with some help from the super rich. While handing out cash is not a solution, investments in poverty reduction schemes, away from the preachments of governments, would be helpful
Gates and Buffett are supporting the works of several charities, others can follow their examples so that the rest of humanity can attain acceptable living standards for humans.