Mideast billionaires earned double cost of Beirut repairs

BEIRUT • The Middle East’s 21 billionaires have amassed US$63 million (RM264.6 million) every day since March, a combined bounty double the amount needed to repair the damage caused by the Beirut port blast, Oxfam International said yesterday.

The region’s 21 richest men “saw their wealth increase by nearly US$10 billion since the start of the Covid-19 crisis”, the charity said.

Oxfam said its figures were the result of a comparison between their net wealth as listed by Forbes on March 18 and on Aug 16.

It said the resulting amount represented twice the emergency funds provided to the region by the International Monetary Fund to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also amounts to double what is needed to repair the material damage done to property in Beirut by a huge, deadly Aug 4 blast at the port, according to accountancy firm PwC.

“For too long profit has been prioritised at the expense of the public good and safety,” said Nabil Abdo, Oxfam’s senior policy advisor in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The result of this could not be starker in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, which has further exposed the fragility of the economy and will only exacerbate existing inequalities,” he said.

The Beirut port explosion, one of the largest such blasts in recent history, killed more than 180 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed property within a radius of several miles.

The blast, the exact causes of which remained to be determined, has been widely blamed on the greed and incompetence of Lebanon’s ruling class. — AFP