COVID-19 pandemic helps richest get even richer

Russian billionaires are the fourth in the world’s top 10, which includes both emerging markets like Russia, China and India and developed economies like the US, UK, Canada and Germany. The gap is growing not only between rich and poor but also within the richest: the world’s billionaire class is subject to “polarisation”.

Russia’s billionaires have increased their net worth by 20% during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to a boom in global stock markets coming against a backdrop of unprecedented economic uncertainty, reports The Moscow Times adding that the pandemic has pushed their wealth back above levels last seen in 2013.

Nonetheless, Russian billionaires are expanding their fortunes slower than the rest of the world. According to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Swiss UBS bank, the wealth controlled by Russia’s richest has increased by 80% since 2009, which has been the smallest increase among the world’s top 10 billionaire locations. Over the same period, global stock markets have grown more than threefold, reads the MSCI World Index. China’s rapid economic development helped its billionaires soar up the rankings over the last decade, as their combined wealth increased more than tenfold.

At the end of July, the world’s cumulative billionaire wealth passed $10 trillion for the first time in history. Russia’s 102 billionaires possess an aggregate wealth of $468 billion, which makes them the fourth wealthiest cohort in the world. By comparison, US billionaires own $3,6 trillion, Chinese — $1,7 trillion and German — $600 billion. At current growth rates, France and India may surpass Russia in the billionaire league over the next few years.

China’s rapid economic development helped its billionaires soar up the rankings over the last decade. Photo: THE STEPHEN J MASON PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

Russia’s weaker performance is probably linked to the industries where Russia’s billionaires are concentrated. According to the report, technology and healthcare billionaires have shown the fastest growth over the past year, and Russia is currently underrepresented in these sectors compared with the US, China and Europe. In addition, the country’s economic growth has averaged less than one per cent per year since 2013, which is rather slow.

The report points out that the world’s billionaire class is subject to “polarisation”. “The innovators and the disruptors, the architects of creative destruction in the economy are still increasing their wealth,” it reads. “Other billionaires on the wrong side of economic, technological, societal and environmental trends are becoming less wealthy.”

By Anna Litvina