For the first time in 16 years the Forbes Rich List does not contain an American at the top. That honour goes to Carlos Slim, the cigar-smoking Mexican of Lebanese descent. With a fortune estimated at $53.5 billion, he has overtaken Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and Warren Buffett, the legendary investor. Americans may view this as another sign of their country's waning influence. But Messrs Gates and Buffett, while they still have fortunes of $53bn and $47bn respectively, have slipped down the list because of their growing philanthropy. Mr Gates has set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spending billions on a number of programmes throughout the developing world, including a commitment to spend $10bn over the next 10 years on vaccinations. Mr Buffett has contributed generously to this fund.
It was their fellow American, Andrew Carnegie, who said that "the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced". What Messrs Gates and Buffett have shown is that creating jobs with your business savvy and ideas and creating opportunities through philanthropy are far from mutually exclusive efforts. It is perhaps an honour for them to have moved down the Forbes Rich List.