The wealthy just aren't that generous

It turns out the GCC is full of millionaires. Who would have thought?

Unlike other parts of the world, this region isn’t shy when it comes to showing off its wealth: it’s on display everywhere in the lavish yachts, sports cars, clothes and accessories.

Just for good measure, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has laid it out plainly in its latest report looking at global wealth.

In it, Qatar comes out on top with 175 households out of every 1,000 boasting private wealth of at least $1m. Kuwait is fifth with nine per cent, or 90 households out of every 1,000 millionaires, Bahrain sixth with a 5.9 per cent millionaire density, while Oman, the UAE and Saudi Arabia rank 10th, 12th and 13th, respectively.

The entire GCC is in the world’s top 15 richest by this measure, while on a regional level, the report reveals that private financial wealth grew by 11.6 percent to reach $5.2 trillion in 2013.

But, just how much of this wealth is going to others in need?

According to the BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index 2014, not much. While the Middle East, or certainly the GCC, is cash rich, the region, based on the 400 individuals worth at least $5m assessed, is ranked the lowest in the world for sharing that fortune with others.

Of a total maximum index score of 100, the Middle East received a dismal 29.4. The US was ranked highest at 53.2 while Europe scored 46.3 and Asia 42.4. As bad as the score is, it also doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon, as while the Middle East’s current giving was 7.4 out of a index score of 30, its projected giving also scrapes the barrel at 5.1 out of an index score of 20.

The compares to 18.8 and 11.5 respectively in the US.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Forbes Insights, which partnered with BNP to produce the index, points out that 30 of the region’s richest (or about 43 percent), including Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, have charitable foundations. For others, it is also a case of not knowing, with the mega-rich not so ostentatious when it comes to revealing details of their charitable causes.

Looking at another measure the results are mixed. Qatar was ranked ninth in the World Giving Index 2013 with a participation score of 51 percent, though that same index also ranked Saudi a dismal 57th with 33 percent. The other GCC countries didn’t even rate a mention, presumably because of a lack of data.

Going back to BCG’s millionaires’ rich list and the US had the highest number of millionaire households (7.1 million), as well as the highest number of new millionaires (1.1 million).

The US also topped the World Giving Index with 61 percent, though research shows Americans, too, are lagging in the philanthropy stakes with the country’s wealthiest contributed just 1.3 percent of their income to charity compared to 3.2 percent of ordinary folk.

So, yes, it turns out the GCC, and the world, is full of millionaires. It’s just a shame its not millions of them that are more generous.

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Posted by: Ahmed

Unfortunately this article is a flawed and completely inaccurate. There is no possible way to determine how much each person gives to charitable foundations and this is specially true for any financial institution to find out or to determine a percentage relative to the west. As to the culture here in the Middle East most donations are private and in most cases nobody will know except the person donating.

Not only that but in Islam, Zakat (helping the underprivileged) is compulsory as it is one of the five pillars in Islam. It is also the personal responsibility for all Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and to eliminate inequality.

Posted by: SAM

@Ahmed, yes, quite convenient to justify greed and lack of compassion towards the poor. These numbers are obtained from the charitable organizations as well, which have donor lists. True, you can not be 100% accurate, but studies do give a general picture on what really takes place. I have seen how laborers and maids are treated here and common sense dictates that generosity can not be expected from such types. I'd agree with you if Zakat is enforceable, otherwise, it is a smoke screen.

Posted by: Hawk

It's one thing to say ZAKAT IS compulsory and quite another to actually determine the facts and only the facts. In the last 5 years, how many gave 2% in Zakat on an individual, institutional or any other level?

Posted by: Mick

Perhaps something you may be obliged to consider a reality may not be a reality. I've been here 6 years and I've seen very little charity. Not even in day to day. There is a massive lack of civic mindedness here that is rampant. For ex: my country of Canada where charity is on every corner from small donations or small offerings of good nature to large contributions, because of a long standing sense of community. Because your faith makes something compulsory doesn't mean that it is being actively pursued. Most of the organized charities I've seen here goes only back to other muslims in need. We don't discriminate like that back home. During Ramadan it is well known that Emiratis will receive special pricing at grocery stores. Not muslims in general or all people in general, but only Emiratis. How is this fair? It's been published and documented as a mandate. You may give but it's limited, unfortunately to specific groups. I believe this study, unfortunately

Posted by: RAH

Those studies can never accurately assess contributions by Muslims mostly because many of us do not divulge such information. We don't because Islam states that not all contributions made should be made public.

Unlike the West, where extravagant gala parties are made to help the famous make their 'givings' made public for the sake of raising their public appeal, Allah commands us that we don't divulge our full contribution amount for one reason:

Those that announce their givings may derive their satisfaction (to help the poor) by gauging media's reaction and what commentators say about them. Whilst those who contribute quietly do it for God and get their satisfaction knowing they did it for Him alone. Hence the former gets a feeling of superiority whilst the latter gets the feeling of humbleness - which is what God commands us to feel (i.e. don't be smug but be humble enough to donate quietly without showing pictures of the poor who received your riches).

Posted by: Canuck

you are deluded RAH. Making baseless claims. In comparison, you are not as giving and its seen in day to day kindness here that is small in comparison to the rest of the world. When I moved here I was shocked to see people letting doors close in front of other people instead of holding them. Having no courtesy on the roads for the safety of others. The charities are geared to give back to their own people. It should be for all. It's easy to say that the GCC gives enormous amounts but needs to keep it secret our of humility since that is very convenient. Gala parties? You have never been to North America, it seems. Millions of communities. Humble people having a bake sale to help a cancer victim in the town or a house burned down and the entire town comes together for a contribution. This happens thousands of times, daily because of a tight sense of community. You don't have that here. Please stop protecting your own lack of interest in giving and demonizing the USA.

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