The fortunes of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat total at least $300 million, earning him the sixth spot on the world’s wealthiest ‘Kings, Queens & Despots’ list, published annually by Forbes business magazine. Arafat reportedly managed to amass this sum using his tight grip over billions of dollars worth of international aid and revenues from PA-controlled monopolies in the local cement and gasoline sectors, as well as stakes in the Jericho casino and local Coca Cola bottler.
However, this situation is expected to change soon. Cutting off much of Arafat's cash flow is his recent appointment of former World Bank official Salam Fayad to the post of finance minister in June 2002, under heavy international pressure. ”I am here to tell you it's not Arafat's money anymore,” Fayyad told Forbes from his Ramallah office. “I'm not going to accept anything but total transparency."
Entrusted with the task of cleaning up the PA's finances and making them more transparent, Fayyad's first step on the job was to consolidate the national funds into a single treasury account, the Palestine Investment Fund, under his control. The PA currently has more than $600 million worth of liquid assets, held locally and internationally, Fayad told AP. “This is the PA money and it is being managed as such,” he said. PA investments include a stake in Orascom Telecom Algeria, valued at $90 million, as well as equity in Jordan Mobile Telephone Services (Fastlink), valued at more than $66 million.
In December, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved the PA’s first publicly disclosed budget, prepared by Fayyad. International auditors Ernst & Young as well as Deloitte & Touche will supervise budget spending. In February, Standard & Poor's released the first ever report on the finances of ten firms owned by the PA. Fayad has promised to end the use of cash in government transactions and to include the defense budget in public accounts.
Separate from Forbes main ranking, the world's richest people list, is the ‘Kings, Queens & Despots’ category which lists people whose fortunes do not come from “success stories of entrepreneurial capitalism.” Top of the list is Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud, whose wealth is estimated at $20 billion. He is followed by the Sultan of Brunei ($11 billion) and the Prince of Liechtenstein (two billion dollars).
Fourth on the list is Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, whose worth is estimated at no less than two billion dollars. While Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is rated fifth with $525 million, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat is sixth with at least $300 million. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands ($413 million) and Cuban President Fidel Castro ($182 million) conclude the list.
On the general billionaires’ list, topped by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Al-Saud is ranked fifth. The investments of the 46-year old Saudi prince yielded him $17.7 billion. Another Saudi family, the heirs of Suliman Olayan, are ranked 39th on the list with $6.9 billion. Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is 199 on the billionaires’ list, with a net worth of two billion dollars, accumulated through his banking business.
Turkey also is well represented on Forbes billionaires’ list, with Sabanci Sakip and family occupying the 123rd place, Koc Rahmi and family the 199th rank, Sahenk Ferit and family in the 222nd spot, Uzan Kemal and family in the 329th and finally Turgay Ciner closing the Middle Eastern presence on the list in the 427th place. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )