During Crisis, Rich Greeks Get Richer

For rich Greeks, the good life goes on during their country's crisis.

The Greek economic crisis has made some Greeks very rich. A survey by the company Wealth-X, which tracks the most affluent people in the world, showed that there has been a 20 percent increase in the wealth of rich Greeks, some of whom are believed to be hiding much of their treasures in secret foreign bank accounts to avoid paying taxes.

While the world has been in a recession lock down for five years, the hard times for ordinary people have led to prosperity for those already rich beyond imagination, who have doubled their assets and live high.

The assets of 505 people in Greece exceeds $30 billion dollars, an increase of 11 percent during the crisis that began in 2010 when the Greek government had to go hat-in-hand to international lenders for a bailout and imposed big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

The Greek government has failed to make any real inroads into tax evasion, which is costing $70 billion in lost revenues, and instead going after wage earners to make up the difference although the country has shipping tycoons, entertainment celebrities, rich athletes and business executives running giant companies and bringing in cash hand-over-fist.

Despite that, it was reported a few years ago that only six people in a country of 11 million declared an income of more than $1 million and as the rich just keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.

The disposable income of average Greeks has fallen more than 46 percent in the last 3 ½ years while austerity measures have created a record 27.6 percent unemployment rate – 62 percent for those under 25 – and pushed 20 percent of people into poverty, leading to social unrest, protests and strikes, all of which have failed to make any changes.

The data was recorded by the so-called “census of billionaires,” compiled by Wealth-X, a Singapore company, in collaboration with the Swiss investment bank UBS.

It showed the worldwide recession that began in 2008 helped the rich. The number of billionaires grew by 880 people worldwide. More than 2,170 people possess monetary assets of over $1 billion and their assets have increased over the past five years, from $3.1 trillion to $6.5 trillion.

Germany, which is insisting on the austerity measures in Greece in return for supporting $325 billion in international rescue loans, of which it’s the biggest contributor, is third with the most billionaires, with 148, although the U.S. has 515 billionaires, while China has 157.

The number of billionaires in Asia – the Near East and Africa – which rose to a double-digit rate, is considerably bigger than the respective number in Europe and North America.

The average billionaire has four homes worth nearly $20 million each, an art collection worth $14 million and is most likely to live in Europe, the wealth census showed.

New York topped the list as the city with the most billionaires – 96. Hong Kong came in second, with 75 billionaires living and primarily conducting their business it the city, closely followed by Moscow with 74.

Beijing, in seventh place, was the top mainland city with 26 billionaires. It was followed by Shanghai, which ranked 16th with 19 billionaires, and Shenzhen in 19th spot with 16.

“There’s really no such thing as an ‘average’ billionaire, but as we look at numbers, the average billionaire has a net worth of US$3 billion, cash equivalents of US$545 million, an average of 2.1 children, is 63 years of age and possesses luxury assets and personal holdings of US$136 million,” Mykolas Rambus, the Chief Executive of Wealth-X, said. “It’s also worth noting that 15 percent of billionaires have four children or more.”

“The center of gravity has shifted from West to East,” Rambus said, adding that there would be more billionaires in Asia than in North America by 2018.

Billionaires in every region have been increasing their wealth, but it has grown fastest in Asia, up 12.9 per cent in the past year. The report predicts that the global billionaire population will increase by 1,700 individuals to 3,900 by 2020.

Europe, which has 766 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of US$2 trillion, is still home to the largest number of the ultra-wealthy.

Women make up almost 13 per cent of the billionaire population, with 280 women holding aggregate wealth of $1 trillion. Women tended to inherit their wealth – 71 percent said their fortunes had been passed down. A further 17 percent were self-made and 12 percent were a combination of inherited and self-created wealth.

The popular pastimes for high rollers were listed as art, aviation, real estate, traveling and golf.

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