Middle East millionaire club grows as combined riches top $2.42 trillion

The number of millionaires globally has leapt to an all-time high of 16.5 million. (Reuters)
Updated 29 September 2017
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Middle East millionaire club grows as combined riches top $2.42 trillion

LONDON: The number of millionaires in the Middle East rose by 4.8 percent last year as it rained dollars for high net worth individuals globally, research shows.
The World Wealth Report by global consultancy firm Capgemini revealed that there are now 642,800 high net worth individuals (HNWI) — people with assets of $1 million, excluding their primary residence, collectibles and consumables — across the Middle East.
The rise, however, was the smallest of any region in the world, with the number of millionaires globally having leapt to an all-time high of 16.5 million.
Africa saw an 8.1 percent increase in the number of millionaires, North America an 7.8 percent jump, with Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific all seeing a rise of between 7 and 8 percent.
The wealth of Middle Eastern millionaires rose by 5 percent to $2.42 trillion; that increase was however also the lowest of any global region.
Saudi Arabia has the most millionaires of all Middle Eastern countries, with 176,000 living in the Kingdom, up from 167,000 in 2015. That figure puts it in at 16th in the table of countries hosting HNWIs, a drop from 15th place in 2015.
Kuwait is the only other country from the region to make the top 25, in at 17th with 159,000 millionaires, 13,000 more than the year before.
The reason for the increase in Middle Eastern millionaires, at a time when the oil price fell, was the strong performance of equity markets in 2016, after declines in the previous year, as well as the growth in gross domestic product (GDP).
Globally it was a good year for those with stacks of cash, as some 1.15 million people joined the ranks of the rich, helping the number of millionaires reach an all-time high of around 16.5 million, a jump of 8 percent, with a record total wealth of $63.5 trillion
The US, Japan, Germany and China boast the highest numbers and together make up for almost two-thirds of the total.
In the US alone there are as many as 4.8 million millionaires, up from 4.46 million, while the number of millionaires in China rose to 1.13 million from just over 1 million.
The Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America contributed equally to the rise in wealth, with Russia, Brazil and Canada reversing course from declines a year ago, the report showed.
Russia, helped by a rebound in its stock market, saw both the number of its millionaires and their wealth grow by about 20 percent, pushing Saudi Arabia back a spot in the top-25 table.
France overtook the UK in the top five in terms of the number of millionaires, helped by a recovery in real estate, while Sweden knocked Singapore — which saw a decline in its equity markets — out of top 25.


Israel-Russia ties tested after plane downed over Syria

Updated 14 min 56 sec ago
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Israel-Russia ties tested after plane downed over Syria

  • Analysts say they believe Russia and Israel will eventually move past the incident without severely limiting Israel’s freedom of action in Syria
  • Netanyahu has so far sought to strike a balance between expressing sorrow over the Russian deaths

JERUSALEM: The accidental downing of a Russian plane with 15 soldiers on board has tested relations between Moscow and Israel, which fears President Vladimir Putin will seek to curtail its actions in Syria as a result.
Analysts say they believe Russia and Israel will eventually move past the incident without severely limiting Israel’s freedom of action in Syria, where it has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets.
But Russia, whose plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses after an Israeli strike and strongly criticized Israel over it, has since announced it plans to send an advanced S-300 air defense system to the Syrian military.
It also says it will jam communications of planes that attack Syria from the Mediterranean.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far sought to strike a balance between expressing sorrow over the Russian deaths, stressing his commitment to cooperation with Moscow and vowing to continue to act against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.
“We will continue to act to prevent the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and continue the security coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and Russian army,” Netanyahu said Tuesday.
But Netanyahu’s government has little choice but to take into account Russia’s anger over the incident and the potential risk to Israeli aircraft, analysts say.
In deciding to provide Syria with the S-300 system, Russia overrode years of Israeli opposition to supplying President Bashar Assad’s regime with the technology.
Eran Lerman, former deputy director for foreign policy at Israel’s National Security Council, called it a “very serious issue” that could amount to an “intolerable situation from an Israeli perspective.”
But he added that it seems communication “channels remain open and operational.”
“We don’t work for the same purposes, but we have a common interest in preventing clashes,” said Lerman, adding that there are “mutual understandings” that can eventually prevail.
Israel and Russia put a hotline in place in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
In recent years, Israel has carried out repeated strikes against Iranian targets in Syria as well as what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.
It has hit Syrian sites where those targets were located.
Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, two of Israel’s main enemies, are backing Assad in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.
Israel also remains technically at war with Syria.
The hotline — or “deconfliction mechanism” as diplomats refer to it — failed to prevent Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 military plane being shot down on September 17 by Syrian air defenses.
Syria was responding to an Israeli strike, and Russia accused the Israeli pilots of using its larger plane as “cover” while only giving one minute of advance notice for their raid.
Israel strongly denied the Russian version of events.
In a further sign of the seriousness of the Russian reaction, Netanyahu convened a meeting of his security council on Tuesday to discuss the issue before flying to New York for the UN General Assembly.
He said afterwards that he had agreed with Putin to have Israeli and Russian military teams meet soon to enhance coordination.
But Israel sees the stakes as too high to accept severe limitations on its actions against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, some analysts said.
Its pilots have already been trained to deal with the threat of the S-300, they say.
As for the Russians, they have not forgotten the 1970 battle when Israeli Phantom and Mirage planes destroyed Soviet MiGs stationed in Egypt in a matter of minutes, said Efraim Inbar, head of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies
Lerman does not believe the Russians are looking to escalate the situation, not wanting to compromise their gains in Syria.
But he believes that Russia will try to use the September 17 incident as a “bargaining chip in the larger game that they are playing with the United States and the international community.”
Russian expert Vladimir Sotnikov also does not see a severe downturn in relations.
“Russia’s only concern for now is to reach a settlement in the Syrian conflict because its armed forces are there,” he said.
“Israel is a very important partner for Moscow. It is an ally of the United States, with whom Moscow wants to renew dialogue.”