How long South Africa’s billionaires could keep the government running

If South Africa’s richest man, Johann Rupert, had to run South Africa with his personal wealth, he wouldn’t even be able to keep the government going for a full month.

This is one of the findings of Bloomberg’s latest Robin Hood Index for 2018, which measures how global billionaires could improve the lives of the poor if they gave all their money away.

In the 2018 iteration of the index, the data and media firm questioned how far billionaire wealth could stretch if the world’s richest had to cover the costs of running their home-country government daily.

According to the index, the typical running cost, per day, for South Africa is $333.5 million (approximately R3.98 billion). With an estimated net worth of $8.1 billion (Bloomberg data), Rupert’s wealth would only keep South Africa going for 24 days – hitting around the middle mark of the 49 countries assessed.

Cyprus’ richest man, John Fredriksen ($10.4 billion) could keep his home country running for well over a year (441 days), while China’s top billionaire, Jack Ma ($45.5 billion) could only keep his government running for four days, Bloomberg said.

To calculate government running costs, Bloomberg took total government spending spread over 365 days. It stressed that the index was simply an ‘intellectual exercise’ and not reflective of governments’ priorities or the intricacies of each individual country’s positioning.

# Billionaire Billionaire Net worth Daily government spend Days can finance government
1 John Fredriksen Cyprus $10.4 billion $23.6 million 441
2 Bidzina Ivanishvili Georgia $5.8 billion $13.5 million 430
3 Li Ka-shing Hong Kong $34.7 billion $181.5 million 191
4 Robert Kuok Malaysia $19.6 billion $205.6 million 95
5 Aliko Dangote Nigeria $12.2 billion $129.2 million 94
24 Johann Rupert South Africa $8.1 billion $333.5 million 24
45 Dieter Schwarz Germany $24.3 billion $4.8 billion 5
46 Joseph Tsai Canada $10.7 billion $1.9 billion 5
47 Zygmunt Solorz-Zak Poland $2.7 billion $673 million 4
48 Tadashi Yanai Japan $20.6 billion $4.9 billion 4
49 Jack Ma China $45.5 billion $11.2 billion 4

South African billionaires

According to Forbes’ real time ranking of billionaires, there are only five dollar-billionaires in South Africa, down from eight billionaires in the official ranking for 2017.

Market movements during 2017 and the start of 2018 – as well at the widely publicised fall of Steinhoff International – saw a three super-rich businessmen lose their billionaire status: retail magnate Christo Wiese, investor Allan Grey, and ‘boere Buffett’ Jannie Mouton have all dropped off the list.

Forbes differs from Bloomberg in that it ranks diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer as the richest man in the country, with Johann Rupert ranked second.

Expanding on Bloomberg’s index model, South Africa’s billionaires, combined, could keep the government running for just under 63 days.

This is how long South Africa’s billionaires can keep the government running, individually:

# Billionaire Net worth Days can finance government
1 Nicky Oppenheimer R91.94 billion 23
2 Johann Rupert R83.58 billion 21
3 Koos Bekker R31.04 billion 8
4 Patrice Motsepe R28.66 billion 7
5 Stephen Saad R14.33 billion 4
Combined R249.55 billion 63

Giving all their money away

If South Africa’s billionaires were to give all their wealth away to the country’s poorest, each person living in poverty would walk away with a once-off payment of about R11,400.

According to Stats SA’s poverty data released in 2017, approximately 40% of the population live below the lower-boundary poverty line – or 21.9 million people.

Using Forbes’ data, total billionaire wealth in South Africa amounts to $20.9 billion – or R249.55 billion . The table below shows how much each billionaire would contribute.

# Billionaire Net worth ZAR Per person
1 Nicky Oppenheimer R91.94 billion R4 198.17
2 Johann Rupert R83.58 billion R3 816.44
3 Koos Bekker R31.04 billion R1 417.35
4 Patrice Motsepe R28.66 billion R1 308.68
5 Stephen Saad R14.33 billion R654.34
Combined R249.55 billion R11 394.98

Billionaire wealth data as at 12 February 2018. Currency exchange at 1 USD = 11.94 ZAR


Read: Wiese loses billionaire status as Steinhoff continues massive sell-off

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