Fidel Castro- billionaire, because all are equal



Fidel Castro, Inc, by Maria Werlau


Since 1997, Forbes magazine has featured Fidel Castro in its annual Billionaires‟ edition as one of the richest rulers in the world. Initially, Forbes assigned to Castro a share of Cuba’s reported GDP (gross domestic product) for the previous year, which yielded a fortune of approximately $150 million. Since 2003, however, it began using a method similar to that used to estimate the fortunes of businesspeople and other royals and rulers. Using academic sources, Forbes identified several enterprises said to be controlled by Castro and determined their value by comparing them to similar publicly-traded companies. This has resulted in the more recent estimate of $500 million for Castro‟s fortune.


Aside from the difficulties inherent in estimating the value of privately-held companies lacking financial disclosure, Forbes‟ calculation of Fidel Castro‟s fortune is fraught with other obstacles. Due to a severe lack of information, the number of enterprises it took into account was very restricted in relation to the large number of businesses said to be under Castro‟s control. In addition, Forbes ‟calculation of Castro‟s net worth fails to take into account funds in bank accounts all over the world, large inventories of assets inside Cuba, and real estate holdings both in Cuba and overseas, all reported to belong to Castro. Yet, given the serious methodological flaws of Cuba‟s GDP statistics and Forbes‟ past practice of using only one year as the basis for its calculation, the new approach provides a sounder approximation to Castro‟s wealth. Although it probably falls well short of Castro‟s actual holdings, at least its foundation is the market value of clearly designated assets.


Not surprisingly, the Cuban government has long disputed Forbes ‟inclusion of Castro in their list. It publicly responded for the first time in 2004 by issuing a statement that “the revenues of Cuban state companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people, to whom they belong.” Fidel publicly rebuked Forbes report and said he was considering a lawsuit against the magazine for libel.

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