Usually monopolies, friendly deals with government get them to the top , writes Asia Sentinel

There has been much crowing in the media around Asia over the rapid advance of Asians into the ranks of global billionaires. Chinese are now second only to Americans in the top 1,000 and India has eight in the super rich top 100 category. The US has been dethroned from topping the list and several names from developing countries have leap-frogged the Europeans.

However a closer look at the composition of the list would suggest that riches are often ill-rewarded and that those businessmen who have contributed most to Asian nations’ advance in industry and technology have often been poorly rewarded, at least compared with those who either inherited their wealth or gained it through local monopolies and cozy deals with governments.

The place that should feel most chastened by its positions on the list is Hong Kong. Not only does it boast Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing of the Cheung Kong property empire but two more property developers in the top 50 and another four in the top 150. This concentration of property billionaires in an economy of just 7 million people tells a sad tale of the gouging of residents that has gone on for years thanks to the cozy nature of the relationship between government and their developer cronies.

Indeed Hong Kong boasts as many in the list as Japan, an economy almost 20 times larger, in the list of top 25 Asians in the Forbes list. Its top ranked property tycoon Mori ranks only at 124 while Australia’s top property developer Frank Lowy and Malaysian baker Quek Leng Chang are at a relatively lowly 205 and 376 respectively.

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