You've got to feel sorry for them.
Where once, in 1996
, there were ten Indonesian billionaires in the Forbes list, there are now only two
Rachman Halim, 58, and his family are the richest with $1.9 billion, but are only ranked 410 out of the 793 listed. I suppose that isn't too bad though, as they seem to be recent members of the Billionaires Club, nouveau riche
if you like.They run PT Gudang Garam
, Indonesia's largest maker of clove-spiked kretek cigarettes beloved by Indonesians. While still the largest maker, losing market share to fellow kretek rivals Djarum and Sampoerna. Halim's father started the company in 1958; within a year it was producing 50 million cigarettes. Founding of the company still marked with special celebrations. Gudang Garam is a major sponsor of motor sports in Indonesia.
R. Budi Hartono, 65, is at number 428, down from 150, and his income has dropped a bit too. His family has 'only' $1.8 billion. His family runs the Djarum tobacco company. 'Er Indoors contributes to the Hartono family fortune.
One person I would have expected to find is Putera Sampoerna, who is reputed to be worth $2 billion. However the Forbes list was compiled from net worths ... calculated using share prices and exchange rates from February 13, 2006
and a year ago Philip Morris took over the Sampoerna tobacco company for $5.2 billion.Back in 1998
, the tobacco companies were the government's largest source of revenue after oil, gas and timber
. PT Sampoerna confidently noted in their 1995 Annual Report: 'Being such an important economic component, and the fact that the industry and the government have, all in all, a good working relationship with each other in the past, make it doubtful that the government will radically change (for the worse) its current policies towards the industry as a whole.'
In light of this situation it is interesting to note that the Suharto family and their business associates
controlled a substantial proportion of the advertising media, including billboards, television and cinema.
In a forum on the Richest in Indonesia
from earlier this year, it is pointed out that military expenditure in 2004 was expected to be $1.3 billion, a sum the tobacco barons could have provided.
Now that I'm a non-smoker I don't want to be sanctimonious, but it is also worth pointing out that the Indonesian tobacco companies have killed more Indonesians than the army ever did. I suppose it's all a matter of perception.
Smokes and mirrors in other words.
PS. As Yosef Ardi suggests
, there are a number of known billionaires who are not listed by Forbes. Why?