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Crazy rich ASEANs: Billionaires from the Southeast Asian region

Sofia Tomacruz

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Crazy rich ASEANs: Billionaires from the Southeast Asian region
Meet the dollar-billionaires of ASEAN

MANILA, Philippines— Things may look a little bleak on the other side of the world where Brexit, Trump, and the shadow of populism and protectionism lingers. But beyond these borders, how is the rest of the world shaping up? 

We turn the spotlight on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the world’s 7th largest economy, and the 3rd largest in Asia. (FAST FACTS: ASEAN)

Particularly unique to Asian countries, the driving force behind ASEAN’s economic growth are the families who continue to run some of the biggest corporations and businesses in the region. These individuals operate businesses that form part of the daily fabric of people’s lives – from telecoms, banking, food and beverage, to transportation, infrastructure, power, and property, to name a few. 

Who are some of the richest individuals in ASEAN and what does their wealth look like?

 There are 89 billionaires in ASEAN. 

According to the 2017 Forbes World’s Billionaires list, there are a total of 89 individual billionaires in ASEAN. To be included in the countdown, individuals must have an estimated worth of at least US$1 billion. Though part of bigger families, these billionaires make the list with individual wealth.

Singapore comes in as the country with the most billlionaires, with 21 individuals on the prestigious list.

Indonesia and Thailand both have 20 billionaires each, while the Philippines recently saw 14 individuals now worth at least $1 billion.

Next to the Philippines is Malaysia, which saw 12 of its nationals in the countdown. Vietnamese likewise made the list of the world’s richest, with two individuals reaching billion-dollar status.


These billionaires have a combined worth of roughly $270.8 billion.

Adding up the wealth of ASEAN billionaries, these 89 individuals are collectively worth about $270.8 billion. Together, they constitute close to 10% of the region’s GDP – specifically about 8.9%. (WATCH: Crazy Rich ASEANS)

These individuals run some of the biggest coporations in the region, thus their contribution to ASEAN GDP may be much higher.

What are their sources of wealth?

Many of these individuals grow their weatlh through business that cater to the daily needs of millions in the region. The most common sources of wealth included:

  • real estate and property
  • banking
  • agribusiness
  • power and energy
  • investments
  • retail

While 89 individuals have reached billionaire status, 15% of the ASEAN population continues to live below $2 each day.

Although the number of billionaires in ASEAN has risen over the years, latest data from the ASEAN secretariat shows that roughly 15% of the region’s population continues to live under $2 daily.

This accounts for roughly 94.3 million people who still struggle to gain access to basic necessities such a food, water, proper shelter, and electricity. (READ: Can conglomerates foster inclusive development in PH?)

Latest figures from the ASEAN statistics portal show about 62% of the population of Lao PDR lives with less than $2 each day. This counts for the country with the largest population living below the poverty line in the region; however, there are no billionaires from Lao PDR. 

Data reveals that Indonesia, the country with the second highest number of billionaires, also has the second largest number of people living below $2, with roughly 43.3% falling under this standard. 

Meanwhile, the Philippines – which has the 3rd largest number of billionaires, counts 41.7% of its population living under $2 each day. 

This begs the question: while the number of billionaires in the region will continue to climb, can more people be lifted out of poverty, too? –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.