Austerity, but not for billionaires


This video from the USA is called The Rich Get Richer – New Facts.

By Tom Gill in Britain:

Who’s the fattest cat of all?

Monday 11 March 2013

The 1 per cent are getting richer, the rest of us are getting poorer.

This is a familiar story in a world where greed and extreme wealth are central to the dominant capitalist system. It’s a trend that is central to capitalism’s periodic crises – the most recent of which we remain engulfed by.

The annual Forbes billionaires list is an opportunity to test politicians’ promises that we really are “all in it together” and their claims that the heavy doses of austerity medicine are being spread fairly.

What the list tells us – with a record number of billionaires, worth a record fortune – is that that’s a big fat lie.

The latest Forbes ranking, totalling a record 1,426 super-rich (120 more than last year), globally represents a fortune of $5.4 trillion.

That’s up from the $4.6trn a year earlier. As you might expect, the United States continues to dominate the list, with 442 super-rich, followed by the Asia Pacific region, with 386, the rest of the Americas producing 129 and the Middle East and Africa 103.

Although now the epicentre of austerity, EU countries contribute heavily to the US business magazine’s hall of shame.

And many of the richest among them have become even more filthy rich – this at a time when most people on the continent have been getting poorer, by 14 per cent, to be exact, or one trillion dollars, according to a recent Credit Suisse study of household wealth.

Here are the highlights from Europe’s bust “periphery,” currently the focus of some of the most brutal austerity for all but a tiny super-elite.

Portugal

In Portugal, with wages falling in real terms for three straight years, poverty is spreading among the middle class and an actual rate of unemployment that is by some estimates at around 23 per cent, the 99 per cent really are getting screwed by the “troika” and its punishing bailout plan.

But life for that tiny elite of super-wealthy Portuguese couldn’t be better.

Food distribution boss Alexandre Soares dos Santos and his family saw their fortune grow $300 million. With an estimated fortune of $3 billion in 2012, the No 2 in the Portuguese ranking Soares dos Santos is doing handsomely as owner of Jeronimo Martins, which has more than 2,500 stores in Portugal and Poland.

Then there’s Belmiro de Azevedo, the third-richest Portuguese, who got richer by $500m. He’s now worth $1.45bn.

The source of his vast wealth is Sonae, which owns the Modelo Continente supermarkets, shopping centres and fixed and mobile communications services, with operations and investments in 65 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kazakhstan. Sonae’s share price rose more than 50 per cent, says Forbes.

Seventy-eight-year-old Americo Amorim, the global king of cork, actually saw a fall of $300m in his assets due to the drop in the price of his oil and gas holding company Galp Energia.

But he remains Portugal’s top fat cat, with a fortune estimated at $4.1bn – 600,000 times the country’s annual minimum wage upon which around a third of Portuguese rely for their livelihood.

Ireland

In Ireland a phenomenal show of generosity to the failing private banking system has left the ordinary citizens in a state of “debt bondage,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it. Still, the luck of the Irish has stuck to some, with the country providing five billionaires to the Forbes list.

Pallonji Mistry, owner of the Tata steel empire, became $700m wealthier over the past year, boosting his net wealth to $10.5bn, according to Forbes.

Son Shapoor, a horse racing enthusiast, was apparently given a stud farm as a birthday gift a few years ago. What will daddy give him with his billionaire bonus this year?

Mobile phone tycoon Denis O’Brien is profiting handsomely from Digicel, his phone network provider, which operates in central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Thanks in part to huge borrowings of the like that only the disgustingly rich can possibly secure, his company managed to expand sales and profits.

And now O’Brien is looking to profit from the Myanma, who have been impoverished by years of misrule by a military dictatorship coupled by international sanctions.

He’s become $200m richer over the past year, presiding over a fortune of $5.2bn.

Campbell’s soup heir John Dorrance III renounced his US citizenship and moved to Ireland in 1994, “presumably to avoid paying capital gains taxes, prior to selling his 10.5 per cent stake in the company in 1995-1996,” says Forbes.

He’s currently living a “quiet” life in south Dublin, when, that is, he’s not sunning himself on his yacht in the Bahamas with his Finnish wife. He’s maintained his $2.4bn fortune.

Italy

Italy’s millions are struggling with soaring unemployment, collapsing public services and plummeting living standards, thanks budget cuts and counter-reforms of Bilderberg Club member Mario Monti and his predecessor, the media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.

But the ones with billions, like Silvio – who has become $100m richer – are having a right old dolce vita.

Twenty-three Italians are worth nine digits or more, with nine more dollar billionaires now part of the exclusive club.

The country’s richest is Michele Ferrero, the patriarch of Italian chocolate dynasty Ferrero Group.

No, it’s not miserable Italians trying to cheer themselves up with a tasty treat, but sales in Russia, the US and Brazil that pushed up the value of the group – and Ferrero’s net worth – by $1.4bn to $20.4bn since last year.

Coming in at number two is Leonardo Del Vecchio, the king of eyeglasses, who founded and chairs Luxottica, the world’s largest producer and retailer of sunglasses and prescription glasses, including famed brands like Ray-Ban.

Del Vecchio’s net worth is nearly $4bn higher, at $15.3bn, than in March 2012.

Third place goes to Prada’s Miuccia Prada whose riches almost doubled from $6.8bn to $12.4bn thanks to a giant leap in the luxury goods and clothing company’s share price. Hubbie Patrizio Bertelli, also in the Prada business and a major shareholder, saw his net worth balloon from $3.7bn to $6.7bn.

The global boom in luxury goods purchases by the unashamedly prosperous also saw Giorgio Armani – number four in Italy – get richer, from $7.2bn to $8.5bn.

Spain

Given the size, wealth and economic woes of the nation, Spain has a disproportionate quality and quantity of billionaires.

It has 20 in the global super-rich club, a further four added over the past year.

This is all the more grotesque if you consider that over this period household wealth dropped by some 18 per cent, through a combination of record unemployment, collapsing wages and house prices, plus losses suffered by hundreds of thousands of small shareholders as banks have gone bust.

Still leading the Spanish superricos on the Forbes list is Amancio Ortega, who is also now number three fat cat in the world.

The net worth of the former chairman, but still 60 per cent owner, of Inditex, best known for its Zara brand, sky-rocketed over the past year by $19.5bn to $57bn thanks to Inditex’s huge leap in profits.

Ortega also has $4bn worth of property, much of it acquired at bargain prices during the financial downturn that led hundreds of thousands of Spanish to be evicted from their homes.

Ortega’s ex-wife takes the number two spot for Spain. Rosalia Mera holds a 5.1 per cent stake in the $18.1bn (2011 sales) Inditex. With $6.1bn, she’s $1.6bn richer.

Spain’s number three fat cat Juan Roig has a 55 per cent stake in the 1,356-store Mercadona grocery chain, the largest in Spain.

Thanks to deep price cuts, presumably designed to allow the increasingly destitute Spanish people to feed themselves, Mercadona captured a 22 per cent market share, the largest of any grocer.

While this discounting may have smashed any number of smaller grocers unable to compete, bankrupting the owners and sending their employees to the dole office, it did increase Roig’s fortune by $800m to $5.5bn.

Greece

Life is a grotesque tragedy for most Greeks, now into their seventh year of recession, with a million out of work and a third living in poverty.

But for the country’s latter-day Crassuses, there’s no touching their epic fortunes.

Indeed, two out of the three Greeks on the Forbes list have seen their fortunes grow.

Banker and shipping boss Spiros Latsis, age 66, and his family rose in the ranking as a result of his assets swelling from $2.6bn to $3.3bn.

The second-wealthiest Greek on the list is British-born Aristotelis Mistakidis of mining giant Glencore International with a fortune of $2.7bn, a fall of approximately $100m from 2011.

The assets of art collector Philippos Niarchos increased by around $100m to $2.6bn.

Britain

Britain has 35 dollar billionaires. And befitting a nation that still clings to the monarchy, a member of the nobility, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, tops the list with $11.4bn.

The sixth Duke of Westminster’s fortune rose by $400m over the past year thanks to the booming “prime” property market, which has been inflated by the billions from wealthy Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese, among others, who are fleeing the eurozone meltdown, abandoning their citizens to an ever more miserable fate.

The Britain’s wealthiest landowner is sitting pretty amid the rising value of real estate in Belgravia, London’s most expensive neighbourhood, where his family trust owns 190 acres – and where homes can sell for $150 million.

His Grosvenor Group separately owns real estate on five continents. His family also has 96,000 acres in Scotland, 32,000 acres in Spain and thousands of acres elsewhere in England.

Like the duke, Britain’s number two in the rich list are also minting it with the British property market, a safe haven for those members of the global elite who are joining in an investment strike against jobs and the real economy and instead prefer to use their zillions to speculate in golden bricks and mortar.

Once metal traders, doing deals with Russian oligarchs who got disgustingly wealthy by robbing their own people blind, David and Simon Reuben reinvented themselves as British property magnates.

The Reuben brothers also now control 48 per cent of all horseracing in the UK. They got $1.5bn richer last year and are now worth $10.5bn.

Another property dealing “noble,” Charles Cadogan – number four in the list – Top Shop’s Philip and Christina Green (number five), Virgin’s Richard Branson (number six), jeweller Laurence Graffare (number eight) and JCB’s Sir Anthony Bamford are also rather more wealthy ($900m, $800m, $400m, $1.7bn, $2bn respectively) than a year ago.

The majority of the other British members of the dollar billionaires’ club maintained their wealth over the past year.

Which in a country where your average worker has seen their pay packet shrink more sharply than almost anywhere else in the region is a scandal. But that’s the nature of unfettered capitalism. It’s time to challenge it.

You can read more details on Europe’s filthy rich at www.revolting-europe.com.

Tax havens and global impoverishment: here.

27 thoughts on “Austerity, but not for billionaires

  1. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award, thanks Tazein and Sue! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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