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Forbes has published its list of ‘World Billionaires ranking for 2024’. The much touted is the list of 200 richest people of the world. The billionaires across the globe compete to be a part of the ‘club of 200’. To the surprise of many, this year 12 Indian billionaires, with a total worth of $400 billion, have become members of this ‘club of 200’.

The billionaires’ fortunes continue to swell as global stock markets shrug off war, political unrest and lingering inflation. There are now more billionaires than ever before: 2,781 in all, 141 more than last year’s. They’re richer than ever worth $14.2 trillion in aggregate, up by $2 trillion from 2023.

Much of the gains come from the top 20 who added a combined $700 billion to wealth since 2023. Mukesh Ambani, worth $116 billion, and Gautam Adani, worth $84 billion, fall under the top 20, with Ambani clinching the 9th top position, inching towards billionaire tycoons like Bill Gates (worth $128 billion) and Warren Buffet (worth $133 billion).

The US, which now boasts a record 813 billionaires worth a combined $5.7 trillion, maintains the first position. China worth $1.7 trillion remains second despite weak consumer spending and a real estate bust that helped wipe out some $300 billion in wealth. India, with 200 billionaires (also a record), ranks third.

India’s journey from rags to riches in terms of its businessmen is truly a fascinating one. Over the years, India has seen numerous individuals rise from humble beginnings to become some of the wealthiest and most successful business tycoons in the world. From visionary entrepreneurs like Dhirubhai Ambani and Azim Premji to modern-day innovators like Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata, India’s business landscape is dotted with inspiring stories of perseverance, hard work, and innovation.

Many of the billionaires are migrants from Sindh who chose to move to India following the Partition of the Subcontinent in 1947.

By all accounts, the billionaires of India are cherished and encouraged by the government and the people of India with a sense of national pride. The BJP government has recognised that wealth creation and its exposure to the world is the most effective mode to transform the perception of India from a nation of downtrodden and poor to that of riches at par with the most affluent nations of the world. In the process India has gained a lot of economic and political mileage out of it.

The BJP government misses no occasion when this mind-set of extravagance is not displayed. Every global event held in India, notably the last G20 meeting, displayed sheer extravagance, pomp and show to the extent that shabby slums en route to the venue were walled up.

The recently held pre-wedding ceremony of billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s son costing $150 million is the reflection of the same mind-set. The host mobilised at his expense the attendance of all those who matter in global politics and business. It was more of an Indian PR event amidst presence of the world’s richest with a total net worth of around $ 600 billion.

According to Bloomberg, earlier in 2018, Ambani made his daughter’s wedding the most expensive wedding in India, costing over one hundred million dollars. Neither occasion caused anyone to raise an eyebrow. Moreover, no taxman ever hounded the billionaire.

The elite class of the India of today constitutes its billionaires, whereas, Government functionaries, state institutions and parliamentarians are regulated under a well-defined system of checks and balances with no chance to encroach on the taxpayer’s money. The tax generated from business elite is meant to be deployed in public interest.

The private sector of India, spearheaded by billionaires, has grown more powerful than the state apparatus and its one-time headstrong bureaucracy is driving the nation’s economy.

They are running the nation’s airports and ports, the country’s utilities’ sector, infrastructure and Industry. Foreign Direct Investment and country’s exports are mobilized on the strength of their credentials and the multiple business chambers are governed by the private sector with facilitation services from the government at an arm’s length. The BJP government thrives on the strength of economic performance of the private sector in general and its ‘elite billionaires club’ in particular.

These businessmen have not only created massive wealth for themselves but have also contributed significantly to the growth and development of the Indian economy. As of March 2024, the foreign reserve assets of India are of $642 billion, being the 4th largest reserves after China, Japan and Switzerland. Exports for 2024 are targeted at $ 450 billion with a target of $ 2 trillion by 2030 while maintaining a GDP growth of over 7 percent.

On the social side, around 248 million people living in the country escaped multidimensional poverty in the past nine years, according to a report by government think-tank NITI Aayog.

Pakistan’s journey towards riches started in early fifties when the Muslim business elite from India moved to Pakistan with money, talent and business acumen to join hands with the local people to build up a virgin market, which needed everything from pin to steel industry. The decade of fifties and sixties witnessed their rise to provide the nation with an industrial, business and banking base envied by many as an exemplary performance.

The banks expanded their footprint in the Middle East and Europe and so did many of the large businesses. This mirage of riches was abruptly ended in the seventies with these very pioneer of progress demonised as the ‘22 rich families’ out to exploit the masses.

After this time, the class of entrepreneurs of global level hardly emerged out of Pakistan, denying the nation its global presence and pride. Had the trend of nation’s economic growth continued and its entrepreneurs were allowed to deliver, Pakistan’s entrepreneur would have made their mark in Forbes’ list of billionaires as good as the Indians of 2024.

In contrast, according to IMF estimates, in February this year, Pakistan’s GDP is 340.64 billion dollars. And as per report of 2024, Pakistan has only four billionaires in US dollars terms with a total worth of $ 20 billion in a range varying from $ 1 billion to $ 11.6 billion (offshore operations).

The key to Pakistan’s economic resurgence is in going back to the business model with the private sector in the forefront and government functionaries on the backstage with support functions at an arm’s length. The private sector still has deep pockets to come forth in an enabling political and business environment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Farhat Ali

The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Comments

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Az_Iz Apr 06, 2024 07:20am
Easy to agree with the last paragraph.
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Az_Iz Apr 06, 2024 07:27am
Most billionaires in India,are due to very unequal distribution of wealth.Millions don't get a proper meal,everyday.Poverty is very visible in India,than Pakistan,which even Javed Akhtar observed
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Az_Iz Apr 06, 2024 07:34am
Squeze out $1 from a billion people,thru bussiness or whatever,over a year,you have one billionaire.200 different people do this,over a year,and you have 200 billionaires.
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Az_Iz Apr 06, 2024 07:45am
If FII's take out their investments, the the $600 billion reserves will drop back to zero in no time.
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Az_Iz Apr 06, 2024 07:48am
Unlike China's reserves which are it's own, India's reserves are a result of FII. If they take the money out, the reserves will drop to zero in no time.
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Maj (R) Asif Apr 06, 2024 08:49pm
@Az_Iz, spoke like an intelligent and true Pakistani.
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Maj (R) Asif Apr 06, 2024 08:49pm
@Az_Iz, perfect analysis.
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Khwaja Yunus Apr 06, 2024 08:54pm
@Az_Iz, Pakistan desperately needs more people like you. Your economics acumen is the need of the hour.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2024 01:16am
@Khwaja Yunus , call it common sense.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2024 01:22am
So many countries are far ahead in per capita income, yet cannot produce that many billionaires, because income distribution is not so skewed.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2024 09:07am
@Khwaja Yunus , besides the point.
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Erdogan Admirer Apr 07, 2024 12:33pm
@Az_Iz, join the force and inshallah victory will be ours.
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Arifa Noor Apr 07, 2024 04:20pm
@Az_Iz, Pakistan is proud of you.
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Hafiz Pasha Apr 07, 2024 04:22pm
@Az_Iz, You sir must be the rarest gem that Pakistan is looking for. May the light of your common sense bloom 240 million people's minds.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2024 06:49pm
India ranked 106 is behind Pakistan ranked 97 on world hunger index.
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Dr W Jaffer Apr 07, 2024 09:15pm
@Az_Iz, your bright mind impressed me a lot. You must be doing excellently well in your school. It's refreshing to see teenagers with this sort of analysis. Spend more decades to grasp economics.
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KU Apr 08, 2024 09:41am
Excellent eye opener article. Actually we beat Indians in billionaires race back in the 90's, obviously the dubious kind. After resurgence of democracy, proof lies in foreign banks.
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T.W Apr 08, 2024 10:02am
"no chance to encroach on the taxpayer’s money." I lost you on this paragraph. So far away from reality. No offense, but the article feels like a defensive letter written by Pakistan's elite class.
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JF17 Block 3 Apr 08, 2024 12:29pm
@Az_Iz, We are also ahead in happiness index too alhamdulillah
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Az_Iz Apr 08, 2024 05:31pm
A country in the bottom 25% of the world, based on per capita income,just above Angola,Ghana,Tonga,Djibouti etc, is considered rich?
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Az_Iz Apr 08, 2024 05:37pm
Bangladesh has a per capita income slightly better than India.Is it considered as rich? Even Indonesia which has almost twice the per capita income is not considered as rich.
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Az_Iz Apr 08, 2024 10:12pm
India is a low a 'low middle income' country. Not even a 'high middle income' country, leave alone a rich country.
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KU Apr 08, 2024 11:53pm
@Az_Iz, Strange economic lessons you are putting forth, Indian GDP $3.4 trillion, GDP growth 7.2 %, GDP per capita $2,410, over $70 billion FDI in 5 years till 2023, are you saying this is a lie?
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Az_Iz Apr 09, 2024 02:15am
@KU,like India,the continent of Africa also has 1.4 billion people & $3 trillion economy & similar per capita of about $2,400. Bangladesh also has similar per capita.This is low middle income,not rich
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