7.03.2007

Slim's the Richest (but at whose expense?)

Mexico's telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú is now wealthier than Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Slim's fortune is now estimated $67.8bn compared with $59.2bn for Bill Gates.

What's it mean to the rest of us? I suspect more than Mexicans and Americans would think.

1) Mexico is a country known for catering to its upper classes while forcing its underclasses to migrate north.

2) Mexico has is also known for providing little in the way of social safety net for its workers.

3) Mexico is owned by a small percentage of very wealthy Mexican families. Incredibly, Slim himself owns almost 10% of the Mexican economy.

All of this raises one obvious question: Is Slim's (and the Mexican Oligarch's) wealth simply a result of government policies radically skewed towards them? I think so.

4) But what about Slim's responsibility toward improving life in Mexico? Is he helping change the very policies that have resulted in such vast inequities? It doesn't appear so. While in Mexican terms, Slim is promoted as a philanthropist, but his charity appears to be modest and uninspiring.

5) Sadly, Mexico has neither policies nor customs of social progress through social investments. Social investments are largely left up to the very government whose leaders are more interested in serving and protecting the rich. The result is very little happens by way of investments for public or society wide benefit.

7) In comparison, Buffet and Gates' philanthropy is well-chronicled and inspired. Both have committed to investing their accumulated wealth in addressing major societal and human concerns.

So while there's vast wealth in Mexico, it is highly concentrated among a some group of elites--and elite heavily protected by government. With little in the way of a social compact, the rich get richer in Mexico while the poor get pushed north.

Americans and the Mexican poor alike are indeed impacted by a Mexican political/economic and social system that ignores the needs of its most vulnerable while aiding the amassing of fortunes like Slim's.

Mexican tycoon overtakes Bill Gates as world's richest man Guardian Unlimited