Money isn’t funny in this man’s world

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Paul Francis

DE­SPITE liv­ing in the UK, which is one of the con­di­tions for be­ing con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion, it was not much of a sur­prise to learn that I did not fea­ture on the latest list of the 1,000 rich­est peo­ple in the coun­try. To qual­ify, your yearly earn­ings have to be at least £70bil­lion, a fig­ure I am marginally - al­right, sig­nif­i­cantly - shy of. Still, like most peo­ple I glanced at the list of names whose per­sonal for­tunes prob­a­bly amount to the gross na­tional prod­uct of sev­eral small coun­tries out of cu­ri­ousity and partly so I could say “well, they might have all that money, but are they happy?” (An­swer: in most cases, prob­a­bly) and “there’s more to life than ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions” (true but I wouldn’t say no to an As­ton Martin.) I can’t say there were too many sur­prises. The dis­cov­ery that The Queen has a rather health­ier bank bal­ance than me, as does the Duke of West­min­ster, Ro­man Abramovitch, Richard Bran­son, Rob­bie Wil­liams, David Beck­ham and Si­mon Cow­ell is not what I would char­ac­terise as a shock. It was, how­ever, in­ter­est­ing to learn that when this list was first pub­lished in 1989, three-quar­ters of those on it had in­her­ited their wealth while the latest list re­vealed nearly 80 per cent had made their money them­selves. I don’t be­grudge them their wealth; nor do I be­grudge the fact that they of­ten use what they have ac­quired to be­come even wealth­ier. But what I don’t ac­cept is those who ar­gue that the rest of us some­how reap an un­quan­tifi­able eco­nomic div­i­dend as a re­sult. Ac­cord­ing to Ernst and Young tax ex­pert Pa­trick Stevens, the UK’s rel­a­tively gen­er­ous tax regime means “it’s in­come we wouldn’t get a sniff of oth­er­wise.” Re­ally? I ad­mit I never stud­ied eco­nomics but I’ve never heard Evan Davies ex­pound on the BBC news how this par­tic­u­lar feu­dal model works, with wealth some­how per­co­lat­ing down from Rus­sian oli­garchs, mem­bers of the aris­toc­racy to “or­di­nary” peo­ple and judges on tal­ent shows. And of course it over­looks the fact that plenty of oth­ers in­vest - through pen­sion funds, for ex­am­ple - not just bil­lion­aires. Per­haps I wasn’t around when the chance came up to “get a sniff” of this largesse when it was dis­trib­uted al­though ob­vi­ously I’ll make sure I am the next time Si­mon Cow­ell or Mr Abramovitch throws a few £50 notes about. Al­though I don’t sup­pose I’ll snaf­fle up enough to cat­a­pult me into next year’s list.

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