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Nation

Published: Sunday March 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday April 18, 2013 MYT 12:37:07 AM

Give and let live

Some of the most generous people aren't billionaires but modest folk who are committed to living simply so that others may simply live.

THE Hurun Report has revealed that there are 1,435 people around the world with a personal wealth of US$1bil (RM3.1bil) or more as of January.

Asia has more billionaires than any other continent, with China hea-ding the list with 317. The United States retains its No. 1 spot as the country with the most billionaires, 409 in total.

Like the more famous Forbes list, the Hurun Report, which is published by a Shanghai-based luxury magazine, is eagerly awaited each year even though it throws up few surprises.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing (RM99.3bil) remains Asia's richest man but is only the seventh wealthiest man in the world. The richest man on the planet, both on the Hurun and Forbes lists, is Carlos Slim, the telecoms magnate from Mexico.

As I was looking through the Hurun Report, which also listed out the billionaires' charity work, their astrological signs and the businesses that generated the most returns, I am reminded of another list that hardly generates any attention.

The poorest countries in the world are mainly in Africa, where people get by for as little as US$1 (RM3.10) a day, which is below the official international poverty line of US$1.25 (RM3.75).

The poorest 40% of the world's population accounts for a mere 5% of global income. The richest 20%, which obviously include the billionaires, accounts for three-quarters of world income.

Given a choice, how rich do we want to be? It's not an easy question to answer as the line between needs and wants is not so easily defined in this time and age.

But I think a good indicator would be how ready we are to part with our money now instead of waiting to be like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg who consistently donate huge sums to charity.

A story was related to me recently about a man struggling to give a percentage of his salary to charity.

This man has always had a charitable heart and when he started work, he was earning about RM500, a princely sum in the early 1980s for someone without tertiary education.

At the start of his working life, he pledged to give away 10% of his salary each month to charity. Over the years, as his salary grew, he had no problems parting with the 10%. But when his salary rose to the high four-figures, it became a struggle.

Giving away RM50 a month was not quite the same as RM800, even if the percentage was the same. He started coming out with all sorts of excuses not to stick to 10%.

He went to his spiritual mentor for advice. The mentor listened to him patiently and then came up with the perfect solution.

“All these years, you have always asked me to pray for you to do well and earn lots of money. From today, I am going to pray that your salary goes down to the level where you will not struggle to part with 10% of your money,” he said.

We all cannot be like the super-duper rich who can give away their billions but we have to admit that it is definitely harder to give when we have more, than when we have less.

Some of the most generous people I know are simple people with simple lifestyles who are committed to living simply, so that others may simply live.

In a recent report in the South China Morning Post, Zong Fuli was asked what it was like to be the only daughter and heiress of beverage tycoon and billionaire Zong Qinghou, the richest man in China.

“Rich and boyfriendless,” she said.

Over dinner last week, a friend told me that he feels really rich when he goes to his durian orchard and hugs the tree that has given him a good harvest. We allowed him to settle the bill.

> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) is thankful for the many blessings that do not add to his bank account but enrich his life tremendously.

Tags / Keywords: Nation, News, Opinion, sunday starters

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