Billionnaire boom highlights Moscow wealth gap: press

11th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Moscow should not be proud of its status as the world's billionaire capital, observers said Friday, after a list by Forbes showed the Russian metorpolis was home to more super-rich than any other city.

Forbes said Russia now had 101 billionaires, a third of the total in Europe, with 79 of them living in the capital.

But newspapers noted that this made Moscow ever more inaccessible for the middle class and only added to social tensions in the city of over 10 million people.

The number of Russian billionaires went up from 62 last year, Forbes said, with Russia's richest overwhelmingly working in natural resource industries, particularly metals.

Forbes said Russia's wealthiest person Vladimir Lisin, worth $24 billion, was the world's 14th-richest man.

"It turns out that only in Russia was being close to the centre of power the key factor in business growth," Vedomosti wrote in an editorial Friday.

As a result, inequalities were "monstrous", with the richest 10 percent earning 30 times more than the poorest 10 percent of the population, the paper wrote.

To lessen the risk of unrest, the city now has to spend a fifth of its budget on subsidizing Muscovites and lowering their utility bills, it said.

In a poll conducted by the Izvestiya daily, 62 percent of the respondents said the capital had the most billionaires as a "result of the anti-national privatisation," with 28 percent saying the rich wanted to be close to power.

"A high concentration of the rich makes life for the middle class unbearable in the capital and turns the poor into dust," analyst Boris Kagarlitsky told the paper.

Inflation and high food prices have contributed to a recent rise in protest attitudes, with 49 percent of Russians telling a state pollster earlier this month that they were ready to participate in protests.

© 2011 AFP

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