Wealth safari



It’s not all doom and gloom in the world today.

Sure, billions of low-and-middle income people are struggling to keep up with rising food, energy and housing costs. But it’s boom time for billionaires and the super-rich.

The number of ultra-high net worth individuals – those with $50 million or more – hit a record 218,200 last year. And at 2,668, there are 573 more billionaires in the world today than in 2020, their combined wealth equal to nearly 14 per cent of total global GDP.

How have they done it? With a bit of help.

Disruptions in supply chains provide great opportunities for speculation by those with mega bucks. And remember that $9 trillion fiscal stimulus that central banks unleashed during the pandemic? Well, much of it went into the financial markets, and from there straight into the pockets of the super-rich.

So, let’s meet some of them. They can show us that as long as the system’s right (and for them it really is) there are eye-popping profits to be made from growing inequality – and the pain and immiseration of others.

Every bite you eat…

James Cargill II is one of 12 billionaire heirs to the giant food corporation Cargill Inc. As the UN reported a devastating rise in global food prices, Cargill posted a record 63 per cent increase in profits, which rose to $5 billion in 2021. In 2022, these were expected to be even higher.

Rosy-cheeked James, aged 73, saw his own net worth swell accordingly, from $2.7 billion in 2020 to $5 billion in 2022. Brother Austen and sister Marianne kept pace, with all three joining Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index of the 500 richest people alive.

Don’t expect the Cargills to spill the beans on their money-making ruses though. The ‘famously quiet’ family keep a ‘low profile’ on their various ranches in Wisconsin and Colorado. But the modus operandi of the corporation they 90-per-cent own is all about ‘aggressive consolidation’ rather than reticence. Result: you can barely move without encountering some Cargill ingredient, product or service, ranging from wheat, meat, poultry, oils, starches, animal feed, transport, steel, pharmaceuticals, to, crucially, commodities-trading financial services.

Cargill’s record on labour relations and pollution, meanwhile, is lamentable. Still, the company website insists: ‘Cargill is helping the world’s food system work for you.’ Well, it sure is working for them…

BP’s ‘company man’

Bernard Looney is CEO of energy giant BP. He may not be a billionaire just yet, but the Irish-born oil-and-gas chief won’t be struggling to pay his energy bill. He saw his salary double in 2021 to $5 million and he was tipped to trouser another $13.2 million in 2022. The rise in fuel costs that is causing hardship worldwide has turned BP into ‘a cash machine’ – to use Looney’s expression – with profits tripling to $8.45 billion in just three months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

New Internationalist for more

Comments are closed.