Editor’s Sidelines, April/May 2021: Wealth Creation

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A regular column in this magazine is called Wealth Creation. The column’s idea is to explore the sources of wealth creation within an economy on a macro level, and, by extension, for those on the rich list. The column might illustrate, for example, rising consumer spending in a country, which is good news for local retail tycoons.

This issue has three lists: World’s Billionaires, Japan’s 50 Richest and Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia. All three illustrate something about wealth creation. The World’s Billionaires list is notable this year because it tracked wealth creation over the 12 months to March 2021, while the pandemic was in full force worldwide.

Despite the havoc caused by the virus, the overall number and the total wealth of billionaires surged around the world—up 32% to a global total of 2,755 billionaires. As noted in the list’s introduction: “The number of billionaires simply exploded.” Moreover, their aggregate net worth rose by 64%, to $13.1 trillion.

The Asia-Pacific region is now home to 42% of the world’s billionaires, more than any other location, including the U.S., which long held the pole position but now is No. 2 with 26%. On top of that, Asia-Pacific’s billionaires are also wealthier, in total, than those in the U.S.—$4.7 trillion versus $4.4 trillion. To be sure, this rise in the number and wealth of the ultra-rich during a global pandemic will “engender endless amounts of consternation,” notes U.S. Forbes’ Chief Content Officer Randall Lane in his essay in this issue.

Yet wealth creation should, overall, be a tide that lifts many boats. Take Japan. Its years of stagnation—dubbed the “lost decades” starting in 1991—seem finally to be coming to an end. Even while the pandemic raged in Japan, economic growth is starting to show signs of a revival, and the country’s stock market is posting strong year-on-year gains. A slew of new wealthy in Japan have emerged, with five new entrants making it onto this year’s Japan’s 50 Richest list.

Four have fortunes that are self-made. That trend is worldwide as well, with the ranks of self-made billionaires far outstripping those with inherited wealth. In other words, the global wealth creation system has tipped in favor of those who achieve it by dint of their own efforts within their lifetimes.

And then there’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list. It has evolved to become something of an early warning system for wealth creation, such as Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia alumna (class of 2016) Melanie Perkins from Australia, whose design-software firm Canva is now valued at $15 billion. This makes Perkins a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list has many building companies, and creating wealth. Some work in areas such as the arts, healthcare or sports, where they may be driven by more than financial reward—and they too are creating value if not always wealth. All of them have qualified to be included while doing so in the midst of a pandemic.

Thus, there are manifold examples of wealth (and more broadly value) creation in this issue. They all have been adding something positive to the global community, despite the terrible and traumatic impact of the pandemic.

As always, all comments are welcome at editor@forbesasia.com.

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