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By Belliah K Theise

 b6_edited.jpegThis week ‘s memo is about  the next Zambian president. Who should take the Zambian presidential sit in 2011?

I hate to admit this, the truth is, our leaders are always voted by villagers, marketeers and street boys who have no clue about education and foreign policies. 

 According to our observation, most politicians have a way to get into a mind of a person with little knowledge or no knowledge at all.  This includes developed countries. If you take a close look on politics, you will find that people end up voting for a candidates who keeps preaching what voters want to hear. People will go out to vote just because of a hear say,  without assessing a candidate  in practical terms.

In most cases, political Candidates have a tendency to study what the audience want to hear. Any one can stand and say I will give you jobs, bring rich breakfast, lunch and dinner in your home. Zambian Voters will listen because there are no jobs and are in poverty. As a candidate, you are happy when people vote for you. Are you going to keep your promise once you are voted in office?

 Practically, things always turns out to be different from all the promises that politicians make.

it’s time for candidates who are aspiring, to start preaching on practical issues and not to give fake hopes to people. Talk about real things that affects the economy of every country, and explain, to voters that it is not an easy path to bring stability to the country, it takes hard work and devotion to make things happen.

Disappointments, comes out when a candidate makes fake promises, do something else after being voted into office. We ask all the aspiring candidates to be more practical in the way they make promises to people, to avoid early disappointments.

It is not fair for voters  who have no clue on “Inflation” or economics, who listens innocently and line up to vote for a candidate who later does something contrary to his/her promise.

Zambia has highly experienced ,knowledgeable, and educated people.  Why is it that Zambians ends up voting for wrong leaders?

Could it be that all the educated Zambians, are too frustrated with the system, and has opted to sit back and watch, while the poor Zambian villagers , marketeers and street boys take their stand to vote for what they hear from those who can read their minds and give them fake promises? or could it be that qualified leaders and educated Zambians are  too busy with other duties and other personal stuff, or they are not brave enough to fight for their people or  is it lack of bringing themselves out with a positive approach to their fellow Zambians?

 If you are candidate or a voter. It is time to revisit your weaknesses and try to improve on them.

Our advice is:

Avoid:  Hate, tribal, gossip, and malicious rumors. By all means, should not be used as a tool to pick a right candidate for president. Validate each rumor, use your own discretion and common sense. Avoid operating like robots that are programed to perform certain functions.  Operating like a robot, makes both leaders and their voters look like idiots, when things go sour.

Remember:

Not every rumor or gossip is true. Yes there is no smoke without fire, but you have to remember that humans always enjoy negatives that appear on a candidate without using their good sense of judgement or common sense, they vote basing on those facts. If a negative outweighs a positive side of a candidate, it takes away all the good work he/she has done.

Remember, Media and campaigns are there to help voters to pick the best candidate, but at the same time, uses that as a tool to bring down a candidate, if the opponent has strong links to the media.  Many great leaders are brought down in no seconds, and voters end up voting for useless candidates.

Again… use your common sense and your good judgement, when you read negatives that comes flying on potential candidates.

On that note, we decided to re-visit Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika’s profile, as she seem to be carrying all the package of what makes a great president.

We at Zambian Chronicle, would like to see Dr Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika, contest for president in 2011. We have well rounded Zambian candidates like, HH and Many more, Inonge adds to the package.

For years, Zambians have had a problem when it comes to picking a president. It’s time to check where Zambians go wrong when it comes to voting?

Weakness:

We Vote with emotions, tribal, rumors and hate, Worse more when it comes to gender. 

In the end we get disappointed with our own voting when things go in a different direction. 

May be it is time to turn around, and look seriously inside lives and works of the aspiring candidates, without looking at a tribe, relations, cheap gossips or malicious rumors.

It is even more difficult to convince a Zambian mind, when it comes to women leadership.

When we look at Zambians, we see a lot of potential candidates men and women, that can lead us in 2011, and bring light to Zambia. 

I am not here advocating for Inonge because I am a woman.

Here at Zambian Chronicle, we are looking at the credentials, Education and experience.

Zambia needs a candidate for president, that has both local and foreign policy experience. As an African country we can not rule out education. It should be very cardinal  in this aspect.

 Therefore when it comes to choosing a president, let us open our eyes and pick quality and not quantity.

Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika and Hakainde Hichilema are both quality.

Having said that, Zambian Chronicles will continue to bring out candidates, that we think can make great president for Zambia in the future.

As we pointed out, in our earlier debates, Hakainde Hichilema and Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika, have the real package.

Therefore, without looking at the tribes and gender, we feel Inonge can make a great president for Zambia for 2011. This includes, the appointees of ministers and local government officials.

This forum may help the next Zambian President to pick right candidates for certain roles.

Below is Inonge ‘s profile and credentials:

Copyrights © 2008 Zambian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Zambian Chronicle content may not be stored except for personal, non-commercial use. Republication and redissemination of Zambian Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Zambian Chronicle. Zambian Chronicle shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, interruptions or delays in connection with the Zambian Chronicle content or from any damages arising therefrom.

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Princess Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika (born 10 July 1943, Senanga) is a senior Zambian politician currently. For more about her check

http://www.inongelewanika.com/family.htm

   1.   Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika is currently Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia to the United States of America . Before her appointment to Washington D.C.

 2. She was Ambassador and Special Envoy to the Zambian President during his term as Chairman of the African Union.

3. Dr. Lewanika served as a Member of Parliament in the Zambian Parliament from 1991 to 2001. She was the first Chairperson of the Zambia All Party Women Parliamentarians Caucus and also founding Vice-chairperson of the outhern, Eastern and Horn of Africa African Women Parliamentarian Caucus.

  

4. At a very critical time just before national elections in 2001, Dr. Lewanika chaired the National Crisis Committee of the Alliance of Opposition Political Parties.

5.  She is a former candidate for President of the Republic of Zambia in the December 2001 Elections.

6.  She is an Educator by profession and has worked in various levels of Education.

Prior to her involvement in politics, Dr. Lewanika worked with UNICEF in key leadership roles in Africa overseeing more than twenty countries at a time. Jim Grant, the former head of UNICEF once called her “the most knowledgeable person about the children of Africa .” Dr. Lewanika was among five women from various continents to brief members of the United Nations Security Council on the first and unprecedented debate that resulted in UN Resolution 13 on WOMEN, PEACE and SECURITY in the year 2000. She was among sixteen (16) eminent African Women Members of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union) Committee on Peace and Development, an Advisory Group to the African Union.

She was President of Federation of African Women’s Peace Networks (FERFAP) from 1997 to 2002. As President of the Federation of African Women Peace Networks (FEFAP) she contributed to mobilization of peace activities. In that capacity, she was selected to be among ten prominent African Women Peace Workers that visited Rwanda soon after the genocide. She later led a United Nations delegation to Burundi and Rwanda to assess the effects of the genocide on women and children and recommend intervention strategies. She led the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) Observer Mission of 96 Southern African

Academicians, Researchers and Members of Civil Society to the Zimbabwean Presidential, Mayoral and Council Elections in 2002. She was one of the International Youth Foundation’s founding board members.

Dr. Lewanika holds a Ph.D. in Early Childhood and Primary Education from New York University . She is a mother of two grown daughters, a grandmother to four boys and a grand daughter. She has lived in five countries and speaks eight languages.

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A look at more of  Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika’s work Below: 

After 30 years of promoting girls’ education in the less-developed world, aid workers are now realizing that it is not enough to simply open the school door to girls. Unemployment, clean water and HIV/AIDS are now also on their agenda.
Inonge Mbikusita-LewanikaWASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)–Like many aid workers and activists trying to improve the lives of women in developing countries, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika has long viewed education as the key to solving many of her countrywomen’s problems.Mbikusita-Lewanika, a former member of Zambia’s parliament and now the country’s ambassador to the United States, says the benefits of educating girls are so numerous– from raising marrying ages and lowering birth rates to stemming health and economic problems–that she would like to install a plaque reading “Send the Girls to School” in every village.But 30 years after the U.S. government and other aid-givers began to promote gender equality in their programs, they, like Mbikusita-Lewanika, have learned that relieving the burdens of poor women is more complex than once thought. Foreign aid officials from the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations and various nongovernmental organizations say that it is not enough to open the school door to girls if their families are besieged by unemployment, unclean water, labor-intensive household chores and, increasingly, debilitating health problems such as HIV/AIDS. Nor is it enough to get a few women elected to the parliament or congress while women in the countryside still suffer age-old discriminations.To succeed, say aid experts, gender-equality programs must be integrally incorporated into the aid process from top to bottom, beginning with constant attention to gender issues at the policy level and ending with a wide distribution of burden-relieving aid in the rural areas where discrimination is often most ingrained.In Africa, for instance, women perform about 75 percent of agricultural work, according to Mark Blackden, the lead economist in the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Management of Gender Equity Division. He estimates the continent’s per-capita income would have doubled over the last 30 years if women had been given more aid and education to help with crop production. But aid givers have only recently realized that “one does indeed need to talk about the African farmer and her husband,” Blackden said.Instead, because of cultural misunderstandings, they have often directed agricultural education and technology to men. As a result, Mbikusita-Lewanika said, it is not uncommon to see men sitting on tractors as women and girls continue to cultivate with a hand hoe nearby.Clearing a small plot of land in this manner can involve 18-hour days, leaving women little time to raise their children, gather fire wood, walk long distances to find potable water and, increasingly, care for the sick. With such intensive household labor needs, Mbikusita-Lewanika said girls often have little time for school.”The average woman takes care of everyone else but herself,” Mbikusita-Lewanika said at a recent Capitol Hill briefing for legislative staff.In countries where economies have been destroyed by conflict or AIDS, another factor diminishes the rationale for education: The lack of jobs when a girl graduates. As a result, Mbikusita-Lewanika said that, while education “may be the most important investment, it may not necessarily be the first investment” that donors should undertake. For instance, providing drinking water would save women in many Zambian villages 1 1/2 hours a day, she said.In 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Percy Amendment requiring that the nation’s foreign aid help integrate women into the mainstream of developing countries’ societies. Since then, the U.S. Agency for International Development–the main administrator of U.S. development aid–and other organizations have progressed from conducting a few gender equality projects a year to considering gender issues as a part of nearly every decision. While women’s issues once were often segregated in a separate office or set of discussions, all programs are now expected to address their impact on women.”The progress can be summed up in one sentence: It is no longer a separate thing,” USAID administrator Andrew S. Natsios told a Washington foreign aid conference earlier this month.

More Work to Be Done

Still, aid officials and activists say there is much more to do. According to the World Bank, more than 20 percent of the world’s population still lives on about $1 per day. The majority are women. And women’s burdens, especially in AIDS-stricken Africa, are growing as they bear bigger social and financial burdens.

One way donors can begin to lift that burden, Mbikusita-Lewanika told legislative staff, is to bypass governments and distribute aid money to local faith-based organizations and other groups that work at the local level and already know the intricate problems the women in their community face. Many central governments have not established effective ways to distribute help in the countryside, she said.

Other officials suggest increasing funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The $2 billion the Bush administration is prepared to spend in 2004 “is not enough,” said Kathryn Wolford, president of Lutheran World Relief, based in Baltimore.

Wolford also suggests an increased focus on debt relief for poor countries, which would free funds for social programs and infrastructure that could relieve women’s burdens.

Other activists say aid organizations need to collect and process more data showing the positive link between women’s participation and economic development. While many activists suggest that there is already too much talk about women’s problems and not enough action to solve them, economists say that more convincing evidence of the link between women’s progress and economic progress could be found.

At the foreign aid conference, Phil Evans, the senior social development adviser for the United Kingdom’s U.N. mission, said that statistical gender analyses are often riddled with “methodological problems,” in large part because researchers have focused on studying women instead of placing them in a societal context.

Some say the United States should signal its commitment to gender equality by ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty that aims to outlaw discrimination against women and requires signatory countries to periodically report on their progress. President Carter signed the treaty in 1980 but the U.S. Senate has not ratified it as 174 nations have done.

Ratifying the treaty would send a powerful signal that the United States will join the world to “use the instruments available to us to hold countries accountable” for improving women’s lives, Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women, told legislative staff.

New Solutions in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, USAID is attempting to deal with these challenges and its methods are not always very subtle. To encourage families to educate their daughters, USAID gives extra rations of vegetable oil to girls who attend school every day for a month, Natsios said. The number of girls attending school has increased overall from 6 percent to 35 percent, Natsios said, and is reaching 50 percent in some towns.

Not all of USAID’s work in Afghanistan is so targeted at women and girls but Natsios said he has found that nearly every project is having an impact on women’s status. For instance, the U.S. program that is building a 300-mile road from Kandahar to Kabul is unexpectedly improving women’s health in southern Afghanistan. Now mothers in childbirth and women in other forms of medical distress can be driven to medical facilities in Kabul in a matter of five to six hours. Before the road was built, the trip could take two days, Natsios said.

In addition, USAID has installed day-care centers in all Afghan government ministry buildings. Natsios said women who work for the ministries–many now widows with young children–said they would not return to their jobs unless their children had a safe place to go.

While many activists and government officials say gender issues are no longer seen as women’s alone, they hope the next 30 years will bring a greater resolution to age-old problems.

“It has taken a very long time to get as far as we are and (we) have a very long road to go,” said Julia Taft, assistant administrator and director of the United Nation’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

Lori Nitschke is a freelance journalist living in Washington, D.C. She was recently a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University in New York, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and business administration. Previously, she covered economic issues for Congressional Quarterly.

Copyrights © 2008 Zambian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Zambian Chronicle content may not be stored except for personal, non-commercial use. Republication and redissemination of Zambian Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Zambian Chronicle. Zambian Chronicle shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, interruptions or delays in connection with the Zambian Chronicle content or from any damages arising therefrom.

Zambian Chronicle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microplus Holdings International, Inc.

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ALTThere was a one hour interview on CNBC with Warren Buffett, the second richest man in America who has donated $31 billion to charity. Here are some very interesting aspects of his life:

1. He bought his first share at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!

2. He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.

3. He still lives in the same small 3-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha , that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.

4. He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.

5. He never travels by private jet, although he owns the world’s largest private jet company.

6. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis. He has given his CEO’s only two rules. Rule number 1: do not lose any of your share holder’s money. Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.

7. He does not socialize with the high society crowd. His past time after he gets home is to make himself some pop corn and watch Television.

8. Bill Gates, America’s richest man met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffett. So he had scheduled his meeting only for half hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffett.

9. Warren Buffett does not carry a cell phone, nor has a computer on his desk.

His advice to young people: “Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself and Remember:

A. Money doesn’t create man; it is the man who created money.

B. Live your life as simple as you are.

C. Don’t do what others say, just listen to them, but do what you feel good.

D. Don’t go for brand name; just wear those things in which u feel comfortable.

E. Don’t waste your money on unnecessary things; just spend on those who really are in need.

F. After all it’s your life so why give chance to others to rule your life.”

Due To Popular Demand …

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Bill Gates, Microsoft
Estimated Net Worth: $56 billion

The second richest man in the world is also arguably the most philanthropic in history. He and his wife preside over the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with its $33 billion endowment–not including the additional $31 million committed by Warren Buffett last year.

Among his many goals is to increase the agricultural productivity of African farmers, develop preventative treatments for malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and expand financial services to the poor. “The philosophy that Carnegie had in The Gospel of Wealth,” Bill Gates told Charlie Rose last summer, “It really helped me think about philanthropy, and, you know, how you ought to set very high goals.” Bill Gates will this year leave his position at Microsoft to solely concentrate on philanthropic work around the world using Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Pierre Omidyar, eBay
Estimated Net Worth: $8.8 billion

The eBay founder is a vocal proponent of microfinance–small loans to those generally too poor for traditional bank loans–as a method of cultivating entrepreneurship in Africa. Two years ago he and his wife Pamela donated $100 million to Tufts University to create a microfinance fund that will provide millions of loans, some as small as $40, in developing African and Latin countries.

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Oprah Winfrey
Estimated Net Worth: $1.5 billion

Earlier this year the Queen of All Media opened the $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg, South Africa. Two months later she cut the ribbon on another. Her charity, the Angel Network, raises funds for everything from HIV/AIDS treatment for African communities ravaged by the disease to Christmas gifts for African orphans.

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George Soros, Hedge Funds
Estimated Net Worth: $8.5 billion

Soros’ investment in Africa began in 1979 when the already wealthy financier helped bankroll the educations of black students attending the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa. Among his many recent projects on the continent are the funding of free and open media, greater public participation and local government, and compliance of African nations to human rights. Last year Soros pledged $50 million to support the Millennium Villages, some 30 villages in sub-Saharan Africa in need of health, education and farming support.

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ALTStephen Case, AOL
Estimated Net Worth: $1 billion

Through his Case Foundation, the former AOL chairman and his wife Jean have committed at least $5 million to PlayPumps, which builds water pumps that also function as merry-go-rounds for rural African communities in dire need of clean drinking water. The Foundation also provides fund-raising expertise and support to KickStart, which sells low-cost farming tools and supplies to help African families “kick-start” their family’s economic growth. During her last visit to Zambia, US First Lady Laura Bush visited PlayPump at a Basic School in Lusaka promoted by Stephen Case’s philanthropy.

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Sanford “Sandy” Weill, Citigroup
Estimated Net Worth: $1.6 billion

The retired Citigroup chairman is now an active philanthropist. As chairman of the board of the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, he is overseeing the development of a medical center in Tanzania, where an estimated 9% of the population is afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Weill’s wife Joan sits on the board of the Touch Foundation, through which the couple have donated millions to underwrite medical training for Tanzanian doctors and care workers.

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ALTWarren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Estimated Net Worth: $52 billion

Last year, the Oracle of Omaha, and until recently the second-richest man in the world, committed $31 billion of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is particularly active in alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable growth in Africa. Buffett and the Gates’ appeared on PBS’ TheCharlie Rose Show last summer to discuss the gift. “The diseases we’ve already been working on and the education and the inequities that we’ve been looking at for so long just basically doubled by Warren’s gift,” Melinda Gates remarked.

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ALTThomas Hunter, West Coast Capital
Estimated Net Worth: $1.1 billion

The Scottish billionaire plowed proceeds from the 1998 sale of his sneaker business into West Coast Capital, which invests primarily in real estate and retail businesses. Two years ago, he hooked up with former President Bill Clinton to launch the Clinton-Hunter Development Initiative, which he seeded with $100 million. The funds will help provide health care, clean water, sanitation and security in Rwanda and Malawi. Hunter has also committed $12 million to UNICEF’s food program in Niger.

Of the eight philanthropists above – now commonly known as ” Billionaires For Africa”, seven of them live in the United States of America and the only black is a woman from Chicago, IL … thanks a trillion

Brainwave R Mumba, Sr.

CEO & President – Zambian Chronicle

Copyrights © 2007 Zambian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Zambian Chronicle content may not be stored except for personal, non-commercial use. Republication and redissemination of Zambian Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Zambian Chronicle. Zambian Chronicle shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, interruptions or delays in connection with the Zambian Chronicle content or from any damages arising therefrom.

Zambian Chronicle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microplus Holdings International, Inc.

Copyrights © 2007 Microplus Holdings Int., Inc.

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Mexico’s Carlos Slim makes his billions
the old-fashioned way: monopolies 

By DAVID LUHNOW
August 4, 2007; 

Mexico City

Carlos Slim is Mexico’s Mr. Monopoly.

It’s hard to spend a day in Mexico and not put money in his pocket. The 67-year-old tycoon controls more than 200 companies — he says he’s “lost count” — in telecommunications, cigarettes, construction, mining, bicycles, soft-drinks, airlines, hotels, railways, banking and printing. In all, his companies account for more than a third of the total value of Mexico’s leading stock market index, while his fortune represents 7% of the country’s annual economic output. (At his height, John D. Rockefeller’s wealth was equal to 2.5% of U.S. gross domestic product.)

As one Mexico City eatery jokes on its menu: “This restaurant is the only place in Mexico not owned by Carlos Slim.”

[Carlos Slim]

Mr. Slim’s fortune has grown faster than any in the world during the past two years, rising by more than $20 billion to about $60 billion currently. While the market value of his stake in publicly traded companies could decline at any time, at the moment he is probably wealthier than Bill Gates, whom Forbes magazine estimated at $56 billion last March. This would mark the first time that a person from the developing world held the top spot since Forbes started tracking the wealthy outside the U.S. in the 1990s.

“It’s not a competition,” Mr. Slim said in a recent interview, fiddling with an unlit Cuban cigar in a second-story office decorated with 19th century Mexican landscape paintings. A relatively modest man who wears ties from his own stores, the mogul says he doesn’t feel any richer just because he is wealthier on paper.

How did a Mexican son of Lebanese immigrants rise to such heights? By putting together monopolies, much like John D. Rockefeller did when he developed a stranglehold on refining oil in the industrial era. In the post-industrial world, Mr. Slim has a stranglehold on Mexico’s telephones. His Teléfonos de México SAB and its cellphone affiliate Telcel have 92% of all fixed-lines and 73% of all cellphones. As Mr. Rockefeller did before him, Mr. Slim has accumulated so much power that he is considered untouchable in his native land, a force as great as the state itself.

The portly Mr. Slim is a study in contradiction. He says he likes competition in business, but blocks it at every turn. He loves talking about technology, but doesn’t use a computer and prefers pen and paper. He hosts everyone from Bill Clinton to author Gabriel García Márquez at his Mexico City mansion, but is provincial in many ways, doesn’t travel widely, and proudly says he owns no homes outside of Mexico. In a country of soccer fans, he likes baseball. He roots for the sport’s richest team, the New York Yankees.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS
 carlos-slim.jpg

“This isn’t a competition. Being a businessman isn’t about that kind of competition. It’s a competition for the marketplace.”

– Carlos Slim, in a discussion with The Wall Street Journal. Read the edited excerpts.

Admirers say the hard-charging Mr. Slim, an insomniac who stays up late reading history and has a fondness for reading about Ghengis Khan and his deceptive military strategies, embodies Mexico’s potential to become a Latin tiger. His thrift in both his businesses and personal life is a model of restraint in a region where flamboyant Latin American business tycoons build lavish corporate headquarters and fly to Africa on hunting jaunts.

To critics, however, Mr. Slim’s rise says a lot about Mexico’s deepest problems, including the gap between rich and poor. The latest U.N. rankings place Mexico at 103 out of 126 nations measured in terms of equality. During the past two years, Mr. Slim has made about $27 million a day, while a fifth of the country gets by on less than $2 a day.

“It’s like the U.S. and the robber barons in the 1890s. Only Slim is Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan all rolled up into one person,” says David Martínez, a Mexican investor who lives in Manhattan.

Monopolies have long been a feature of Mexico’s economy. But in the past, politicians acted as a brake on big business to ensure that the business class didn’t threaten their power. But political control faded in the 1990s with the privatization of much of the economy and the slow death of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held power for 71 years until 2000.

“It is surprising how big companies have captured the Mexican state. This is a risk to our democracy, and is suffocating our economy,” says Eduardo Perez Motta, the country’s antitrust chief.

As the face of the new elite, Mr. Slim presents an acute challenge for the country’s young president, Felipe Calderón. He must decide whether to try and rein in Mr. Slim despite the mogul’s standing as the country’s largest private employer and taxpayer. Congress routinely kills legislation that threatens his interests, and his firms account for a chunk of the nation’s advertising revenue, making the media reluctant to criticize him.

[World's Richest Man]

During the past few months, Mr. Calderón has looked to cut a backdoor deal with Mr. Slim. In a series of face-to face meetings — the details of which have surfaced for the first time — the president has tried to convince Mr. Slim to accept greater competition, according to people familiar with the talks. The government holds an important card: Mr. Slim can’t offer video on his network — a big potential market — without government approval.

But even some within Mr. Calderón’s camp privately say the closed-door talks play into Mr. Slim’s hands by letting him circumvent the country’s regulators, underscoring the weakness of Mexico’s democratic institutions. Unless Mr. Calderón extracts big concessions from the mogul, they say, he may become too powerful to control. For his part, Mr. Slim says that his companies are “in constant contact” with regulators, but played down the notion of a secret negotiation.

A talkative man who is generally avuncular but who can easily lose his temper, Mr. Slim rejects the monopolist label. “I like competition. We need more competition,” he says, sipping a Diet Coke. He stressed that many of his companies operate in competitive markets, and pointed out that Mexico accounts for only a third of sales at his cellphone company América Móvil SAB, which has clients from San Francisco to Sao Paolo.

Mr. Slim’s strategy has been consistent over his long career: Buy companies on the cheap, whip them into shape, and ruthlessly drive competitors out of business. After Mr. Slim got control of Telmex in 1990, he quickly cornered the market for copper cables used by Telmex for telephone wires. He bought one of the two main suppliers and made sure Telmex didn’t buy any cable from the other big supplier, eventually prompting the owners to sell the company to him.

His control of Mexico’s telephone system has slowed the nation’s development. While telephones have long been standard in any American home, only about 20% of Mexican homes have them. Only 4% of Mexicans have broadband access. Mexican consumers and businesses also pay above-average prices for telephone calls, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development.

Mr. Slim agrees that many industries in Mexico are dominated by big companies. But he sees no harm as long as they offer good service and prices. “If a beer in Mexico costs 1 peso and in the U.S. it costs 2 pesos, then I don’t see the problem,” he says.

Despite countless measures over the years that show his companies charge high prices, Mr. Slim steadfastly rejects that notion. During an interview, he orders an aide to fetch his own telephone bills. “See? We charge $14 per month for basic phone rental, cheaper than the U.S.,” he says, pulling up a seat next to the reporter. That may be so, but additional fees in Mexico make most phone bills more expensive than in the U.S. Mr. Slim’s total phone bill at his own house was a whopping $470 last month. “I have a lot of maids and my sons make calls,” he says.

Mr. Slim says his success comes from spotting opportunity early, something he learned in part from reading futurist writer Alvin Toffler, who wrote the best-seller “Future Shock” in the 1970s, and who sends the mogul manuscripts to review. Pulling a dog-eared copy of Mr. Toffler’s last book, “Revolutionary Wealth,” Mr. Slim leafs through it and shows off his comments in the margins. “Some of his numbers were out of date,” he mutters.

Mr. Toffler says he first met Mr. Slim on a trip to Mexico in 1993. Mr. Slim approached him after a speech, surrounded by his family and carrying one of Mr. Toffler’s books, heavily underlined. The two have been friends ever since. “If you didn’t know he was the richest guy in the world, you’d just think he was a likeable and intelligent guy,” says Mr. Toffler.

The fifth of six children, Mr. Slim was born wealthy. His father, Julian Slim, made his fortune on a general store in downtown Mexico City called “The Orient Star.” His father died when Mr. Slim was only 13.

THE FOUR D’S

Companies that dominate their industries often resort to the four D’s to defend their turf when facing competition for the first time.

Deny — When Mexico’s long-distance market opened to competition in 1997, Telmex at first denied access to its network, arguing that rivals didn’t have the legal authorization to operate in the country, say rivals. In recent years, Telmex has tried to block Internet calling service Skype’s entry into Mexico, arguing it needs a government concession to enter the market. Telmex says it follows legal procedure.  

Delay — Telmex dragged its feet on allowing access to its network, often not returning calls from executives of rival companies or not showing up at meetings, rivals say. When Mexico’s telephone regulator, Cofetel, tried to regulate Telmex in the following years, the company took it to court nearly every single time, tying up the regulator’s rulings for years.

Deteriorate — Rivals complain that Telmex hurt competitors’ service. One small rival, MCM Telecom, says Telmex would route all of its calls through one particular station to overload the calls and create busy signals. Telmex says any such move was inadvertent.

Dump — Mr. Slim’s companies can put the squeeze on rivals. Since his Mexican cellphone company, Telcel, has more than 70% of the market, it collects high interconnection fees for calls between networks roughly seven in every 10 times. Rivals, however, have to pay the fee most of the time, making it hard for them to undercut Telcel’s prices and gain market share.

Early on, Mr. Slim showed an aptitude for numbers that would help his career. He taught algebra at Mexico’s largest public university while finishing his thesis, titled “Applications of Linear Theory in Civil Engineering.” His love of numbers also drew him to baseball, a lifelong hobby. “In baseball…numbers talk,” he once wrote. Even today, he enjoys discussing baseball, telling a reporter that slugger Barry Bonds should be remembered more for his walk ratio than his home runs.

After college, Mr. Slim and some friends became stockbrokers in the country’s fledgling market. Trading by day and playing dominoes by night, the clique became known as “Los Casabolseros,” or “The Stock Market Boys.” Despite the success, friends say Mr. Slim, less of a party boy and more private than the rest, wanted to run companies rather than trade. “He never liked money as much as the rest of us. He just wanted to be a good businessman,” says Enrique Trigueros, one of the casabolseros.

Mr. Slim soon got his chance. After turning around a soft-drink company and a printing firm in the late 1960s and mid 1970s, he made his first big move in 1981, buying a big stake in Mexico’s second-biggest tobacco company, Cigatam, maker of Marlboro cigarettes in Mexico. The company generated the cash Mr. Slim needed to go on a buying spree.

A good time to buy came in 1982, a year that would shape Mr. Slim’s destiny. That year, the collapsing price of oil threw Mexico into a tailspin. When departing president José López Portillo nationalized Mexico’s banks, the traditional business elite feared the country was becoming socialist, and ran for the exits. Companies were selling for as little as 5% of their book value. Mr. Slim picked up dozens of leading firms for bargain-basement prices, a move that paid off when the economy recovered in the following years. He bought Mexico’s largest insurer, Seguros de México, for $44 million. Today, the company is worth at least $2.5 billion.

“Countries don’t go broke,” an unflappable Mr. Slim told friends at the time. Indeed, Mr. Slim always says his inspiration to invest during the downturn came from his father, who bought out his partner in their general store during the worst days of the 1910-1917 Mexican revolution — a bet that made his father a fortune when the fighting ended.

Mr. Slim still spots good values. From 2002 to 2004, he amassed a 13% stake in bankrupt carrier MCI, later selling it to Verizon Communications Corp. for $1.3 billion. “He has never overpaid for anything,” says Hector Aguilar Camín, a historian and friend. While the pair were on holiday in Venice, Mr. Slim once haggled with a store owner for several hours to get a $10 discount on a tie.

Despite his abilities, many here believe his biggest break was the rise to power in 1988 of Carlos Salinas, a Harvard-educated technocrat bent on modernizing the country. The two men had struck up a friendship in the mid-1980s, and Mr. Salinas spoke of Mr. Slim as the country’s brightest young businessman. Local wags dubbed the pair “Carlos and Charlies,” after a popular local restaurant chain.

Under Mr. Salinas, hundreds of state companies were sold, including Telmex in 1990. Mr. Slim, together with Southwestern Bell and France Telecom, won the bid over one of his closest friends, Roberto Hernandez, who got together with GTE Corp. Mr. Hernandez later suggested the auction was rigged, something both Mr. Slim and Mr. Salinas have long denied. Regardless of whether there was favoritism in the sale of Telmex, the privatization process created a new class of super-rich in Mexico. In 1991, the country had two billionaires on the Forbes list. By 1994, at the end of Mr. Salinas’s six-year term, there were 24. The richest of them all was Mr. Slim.

In retrospect, it is easy to see why Messrs. Slim and Hernandez considered Telmex a prize worth losing their friendship. Although countries like Brazil and the U.S. broke up state monopolies into a number of competing firms, Mexico sold its monopoly intact, barring competition during the first six years. And while countries like the U.S. initially barred local “baby bell” carriers from offering long-distance and cellular service in their same area, Telmex got to do all three at once, and across the entire country. Indeed, it won the only nationwide cellular-telephone concession, while rivals had to settle for concessions that were limited to certain regions. When competition was allowed in long distance, foreign carriers were limited to a minority stake in the fixed-line business. Mexico didn’t even bother to set up a telephone regulator until three years after the sale.

Dan Crawford was one of those who took on Mr. Slim and lost. In 1995, the California native became chief operating officer of Avantel, a long-distance company partly owned by MCI and the bank of Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Slim’s erstwhile friend. Avantel spent around $1 billion building a new network, but it soon ran into trouble trying to connect to Telmex’s network — something it needed to complete calls to and from Telmex clients. Telmex executives simply ignored phone calls or failed to turn up for meetings, Mr. Crawford recalls.

When Telmex did connect the calls nearly a year later, the price was so high that Avantel paid 70 cents of every dollar it made to Mr. Slim’s company, according to Mr. Crawford. When Avantel took Telmex to court for monopolistic practices, Telmex responded by asking a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Avantel’s top lawyer in Mexico, Luis Mancera, on trumped up charges, Mr. Crawford says. Mr. Slim confirms the story, but says a Telmex lawyer acted rashly, and that the judicial proceeding was dropped. Mr. Mancera declined to comment.

“Slim is very aggressive,” says Mr. Crawford, who recently retired from MCI. Avantel eventually defaulted on its debts in 2001, much of which were scooped up by Mr. Slim and later sold for a profit. Avantel was sold recently to another Mexican firm for $485 million — a fraction of what it invested in Mexico.

For his part, Mr. Slim says Avantel and others mistakenly focused on the long-distance market, which was in decline, rather than wireless, which was growing.

It hasn’t been much easier taking on Mr. Slim in the wireless market either. In 2004, Spain’s Telefónica SA began selling handsets at a loss here to build market share. But it soon realized that tens of thousands of phones were purchased but never used. According to a case currently at Mexico’s antitrust agency, Telefónica says that Telcel distributors bought the phones to keep them off the market, in some cases swapping the phone’s existing chip with their own and reselling the handset.

When asked about this practice, Mr. Slim says “It could be. That happens to all of us. If you sell something for $50 or $20 that costs $100, someone’s going to buy it.” His spokesman and son-in-law, Arturo Elías, says the distributors acted without Telcel’s knowledge.

Attempts to regulate Mr. Slim’s companies have largely failed over the years. Mexico’s telephone regulator, Cofetel, was so weak in the 1990s that Telmex’s rivals dubbed it “Cofetelmex.” When the regulator did try to act, Mr. Slim’s lawyers blocked it in the country’s Byzantine courts.

The Telmex chief also had friends in high places. Vicente Fox, Mexico’s first opposition president when he won in 2000, tapped a former Telmex employee, Pedro Cerisola, to be his minister of communications and transport. During his tenure, Mr. Cerisola rarely moved against Telmex, say executives from rival telephone companies. Mr. Cerisola declined to comment.

Using money from his telephone empire, Mr. Slim has expanded into Latin American markets as well as new industries in Mexico. His cellphone company América Móvil has 124 million customers and operates in more than a dozen Latin American nations. In Mexico, he has focused on industries that depend on government contracts. His new construction company, Ideal SAB, is currently bidding to run some of Mexico’s biggest highways. His new oil-services company recently built the country’s biggest oil platform.

Some of Mexico’s business leaders say in private that they feel Mr. Slim has grown too greedy. The death of his wife, Soumaya, from kidney disease in 1999 left him without an anchor, says Mr. Trigueros, Mr. Slim’s friend from his stockbroker days. “She was a special woman, the kind who keeps a guy in line. Nowadays, he only has business to think about,” he says.

Mr. Slim’s empire is so vast here now that doing business without him can be difficult. Two years ago, Hutchison Port Holdings and U.S. railroad Union Pacific teamed up to bid on a $6 billion port and railway in Baja California to compete with Long Beach port. But Mr. Slim felt the project had been arranged behind closed doors and was against the idea of the country’s biggest project going to foreigners. He made his feelings known to the Baja California governor and the project was stalled. Mr. Slim has since worked to put together a rival consortium, which includes Mexican rail company Grupo Mexico and U.S. railroad Burlington-Northern. He says his potential bid is a better option for the country because the railroad will run along Mexico’s north and help spur development. Union Pacific and Hutchison both declined to comment.

Mr. Slim has recently given more money to philanthropy, but he has often said his most important legacy is his family. In 2000, a few years after heart surgery, he put his sons and sons-in-law in charge of his businesses. He also started a group called “Fathers and Sons” that invites Latin American billionaires and their heirs for annual meetings, where they sip fine wines and attend seminars like “How to Run a Family Business.”

There is no obvious successor to the patriarch’s empire. That gives some Mexican officials hope that one day the state can regulate his companies. Says one high-ranking official: “When Slim dies, we can finally regulate his kids.”

Write to David Luhnow at david.luhnow@wsj.com

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EASY STEPS FOR ZAMBIANS ABROAD AND FOREIGN INVESTORS TO INVEST ON THE LuSE

The Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) has received numerous queries from investors abroad on the operation of its stock market. In response, the LuSE has now made arrangements for Zambians abroad and foreign investors to easily buy and sell shares on its market. Please follow the notes and guidelines below.

Step 1: OPEN A SHARE ACCOUNT WITH A LuSE STOCK BROKER
Select a broker of your choice from the list at the back and fill in an e-mail application form to open your share account. Upon receipt of your e-mail application form, the LuSE Broker should send you a note to confirm that your share account has been opened at the Central Share Depository [CSD] of the LuSE.

The Broker should also advise you of your share account number.

A copy of your application form will be sent to the LuSE by your broker for verification and recording.

Step 2: SEND MONEY FROM YOUR BANK TO YOUR BROKER IN ZAMBIA TO BUY SHARES ON THE LuSE

Zambians abroad and foreign investors can easily send money to their appointed broker with instructions to purchase shares on the LuSE. Call your broker for their bank account details.

CUSTODIAN BANKS – AN ALTERNATIVE OPTION FOR INVESTORS ABROAD

The LuSE has two custodian banks, namely Barclays Bank Zambia Ltd and Stanbic Zambia Ltd. Custodian banks provide safe custody of funds and securities in Zambia for both domestic and investors abroad.

The custodian bank receives instructions from the client [investor abroad] and executes these in the domestic market. For a buying transaction, the custodian bank will receive the funds from the investor abroad.

The custodian will then monitor the entire transaction, and release funds when the buy order has successfully been traded, cleared and settled on the LuSE. After settlement, the custodian may [if the client requests] proceed to hold the shares in a custodian sub-account in the CSD of the LuSE, on behalf of the investor abroad. The contact details for the LuSE custodians are shown at the back.

Step 3: OBTAIN A CONTRACT NOTE FROM YOUR BROKER – This is important!

Once your order to buy or sell has been traded (matched) at the stock exchange, the LuSE produces a trade confirmation report to your broker. Your broker is then required, under the Securities Act, to issue you a Contract Note within 24 hours. The contract note is the legal confirmation of the transaction. You should therefore receive an e-mail contract note from your broker to confirm that your buy or sell order has been matched on the LuSE and that the transaction will be irrevocably settled with finality 3 days after the trade (T+3].

Contract notes should be filed and kept under the safe custody, as they are legal proof of the transaction.

SETTLEMENT
3 days after the trade, termed T+3, [excluding weekends and holidays], the matched trades are settled by the LuSE Central Share Depository. This settlement involves two simultaneous steps – the movement of money [payment] from the buyer to the seller and the movement of shares [delivery] from the seller to the buyer. This is termed Delivery versus Payment.

Settlement is run everyday on the LuSE at 0900 hours and completed by 1100 hours, the brokers [seller’s side] receive money for all shares sold whilst the buyers receive the shares purchased as book entry credits to their share accounts in the CSD. Brokers are therefore in a position to pass on the money from the sale proceeds, to their clients the same day on T+3 when settlement is run.

TO SELL SHARES
The procedure for selling shares is similar to that for buying shares as described above.

To sell shares you should send an instruction to your broker or custodian bank preferably by fax or by e-mail.

LATEST INFORMATION ON SHARE PRICES – See LuSE website at: http://www.luse.co.zm

The LuSE website gives indicative share prices in Kwacha, US Dollars [or cents] British pounds [or pence] and South African rands [or cents] to assist investors abroad in their investment decisions.

Latest share prices can be obtained by contacting your broker or the LuSE by phone or e-mail.

DIVIDENDS AND OTHER CORPORATED ACTIONS
Quarterly and final dividends, when declared, will be mailed to the address declared by the investor on the client account form.

It is important therefore that the address declared to the LuSE on the share account application form is the same as the address for receipt of dividend payments. All other correspondence [annual reports, AGM notices, EGMs, etc] will be sent to this address.

SUBSCRIPTION TO THE LuSE STOCK NEWS
Investors abroad can subscribe to the LuSE Daily Stock News, Weekly Stock News or the Monthly Newsletter. Details on subscription are available from luse@zamnet.zm.

INVESTOR PROTECTION AND MARKET REGULATION
The LuSE market is designed to operate to current best international standards.

The LuSE Listing Rules have been harmonised with those of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange [JSE]. The Zambian securities market is regulated by the Securities & Exchange Commission [SEC Zambia] under the Securities Act, Chapter 354 of the Laws of Zambia.

The Securities Act is modelled on modern securities legislation as found in the developed economies, and seeks to provide adequate investor protection and the maintenance of a market that is fair, orderly, efficient and transparent.

All players in the Zambian securities market [brokers, broking firms, and even the LuSE] are licensed by the SEC Zambia.

If investors have any complaint or concern, they should contact the Director of Licensing at the SEC Zambia on e-mail: sec@zamnet.zm or telephone number 260 1 227012/226911 or fax number 260 1 225443. The SEC Zambia will investigate the matter to give appropriate redress and remedial action.

First issued on 18 July 2000

For further details, contact the LuSE CSD Manager on e-mail: info@luse.co.zm or Telephone number 260 1 228594/228391 or fax number 260 1 225969

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Oleg Deripaska, born in 1968, is Russia’s youngest billionaire at age 35. Deripaska accumulated a business empire through a series of ruthless and elaborate, though technically legal, takeover raids.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he was a 23-year-old student at Moscow State University. He soon got a job in the fledgling metals trading market. By 1994, he was chief financial officer of Aluminprodukt.

Through the company, he bought a stake in a Siberian smelter plant, beginning his ascent to the top of one of Russia’s roughest industries. Deripaska became the plant’s manager to protect it from a takeover by its former owner, who once threatened him with a grenade launcher.

Later, Deripaska waged his own revolt to take over the shares of the London-based Transworld Group, then owned by controversial multimillionaire Mikhail Chernoi. Fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich became Deripaska’s partner; in early 2000, the two created a joint venture called Russian Aluminum (RusAl).

Today, RusAl has $4 billion in annual sales and is the world’s second-largest aluminum producer. Deripaska owns 75 percent of the company. His other businesses include power stations, Russia’s largest car and commercial vehicle manufacturer, and the country’s largest insurance company.

Estimated Worth:
$1.5 billionCurrent Position:
Chairman of the board of directors, Basic Element CompanyMajor Holdings:
Russian AluminumOther Interests:
Ingosstrakh Insurance; aircraft builder Aviacor; the GAZ automobile company; several bus builders and paper and pulp interests.Political Connections:
Deripaska is married to Polina Yumashev, the daughter of former President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff. Deripaska’s father-in-law in turn married Yeltsin’s daughter, which makes Deripaska a grandson of Yeltsin by marriage. In the current political climate of struggles between the Kremlin and oligarchs, Russian news media speculated in July 2003 that Deripaska would be “next in line” for investigations of his business practice by the Kremlin. One of Deripaska’s deputies at Russian Aluminum, the executive in charge of contacts with state agencies, is running in the December 2003 election for the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament) on the ticket of the center-right, ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.New Plays:
In October 2003, Deripaska bought an additional 25 percent stake of Russian Aluminum for an estimated $2 billion from fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.Lifestyle:
For more than a year, Deripaska has flown by private jet to London every week to improve his English. Yet, unlike his fellow oligarchs, Deripaska says he has no interest in leaving Russia. In addition to his home in Moscow, Deripaska owns a country house in the wild southern region of Khakassia.

Notoriety:
In late 2000, a competitor filed a civil suit for racketeering against Deripaska and his company in a New York court, including charges of bribery, judicial corruption and armed force. The judge dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. Deripaska was barred from travel to the United States and from entrance to the Davos economic summit in Switzerland. Deripaska has also become an outspoken opponent of Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, clashing on the issue with U.S. ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow.

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/moscow/deripaska.html

Bill Friday tries to answer that question for us … by print time of his article, Carlos was not yet considered the world’s richest man but now you know the rest is history … thanks a trillion.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask of that old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Slim.” – Jim Croce.

1902

A young man flees persecution in his home country and travels half way around the world to find a new home and a new way of life. How many times have we heard that one? But what if the young man was born in Lebanon? And what if the country he emigrated to wasn’t the U.S., but Mexico?Here begins the story of Carlos Slim.

Carlos Slim is the son of Julian Slim (Yusef Salim) Haddad, a Lebanese Christian (non-Muslim) who left his own country for a better (read: longer) life at the southern end of North America. Through hard work and shrewd investments – yes, Mexican investments – buying land in downtown Mexico City following the revolution of 1910, the elder Slim became a successful businessman.

And the son picked up right where his late father left off.By the age of 26, Carlos Slim had an accumulated wealth of $400,000. He had married the future mother of his six children. Armed only with a degree in civil engineering and a big pile of money (Mexico in 1936 money), he began buying things. Lots of things. Businesses. Skip ahead forty years.Carlos Slim is rich.

Sorry, I may have understated that a bit. Carlos Slim is RICH!. Ridiculously, excessively, non-stop, stinking, light your cigars with million dollar bills RICH! So rich, that his cumulative wealth is estimated somewhere between thirty billion (Forbes) to FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS (Reuters; Fortune). So rich, that in 2006, he saw his wealth increase $2.2 million per hour (Belfast Telegraph).

Although the majority of his money has come from the telecommunications industry, Slim’s holdings also include five insurance companies (valued at $1.5 billion), a Mexican retail chain (pretax annual profit, $500 million), a mining company, an auto parts manufacturing company, a bank, a tobacco company, oh, and another mining company. All told, Slim’s companies account for almost one-half of the value of the Mexican stock exchange.

And before you think Carlos Slim’s empire stops at the Mexican border, south-of-which 4 out of every 5 cell lines and 9 out of every 10 land lines are owned and operated by him, think again. Have you ever bought anything at Comp USA? The computer you’re reading this article on, maybe? You just added to the man’s not-so-slim portfolio. Designer purses? How about Saks Fifth Avenue where the slim pickins aren’t so slim? Cha-ching! He owns them both. In the time it took you to read this paragraph, Carlos Slim just made $18,000.

Now before you jump from your Comp USA computer chair and shout, “Bastardo Codicioso!” (that’s “Greedy Bastard!” en Español), hear what else this man, who one day soon will be the richest in the world, has done.

In 2006, from endowments to and through his foundations, Carlos Slim donated $1.8 billion to charitable cause including giving away 95,000 bicycles to children of poor families to ride to their schools, 70,000 pairs of eyeglasses, and scholarships to 150,000 university students.

Similar donations over the last ten years start to read like a box score. They include 66 million bikes and 10 million pairs of contact lenses.

He even donated thousands of laptop computers to students, thus providing them access to the Internet. As early as next week, Carlos Slim plans to announce a new plan to donate upwards of 10 billion more dollars over the next four years to help fund Mexican health and education programs.

Add to it the fact that Slim’s companies also employ 250,000 Mexicans.

So how come a large segment of his own people don’t trust him?

Remember the laptops? When the students accessed the Internet, whose ISP did they use?

Do you own a PC or a Mac? If you own a Mac, do you trust Bill Gates? The very fact that you can own a Mac allows you to rest a little easier even while knowing that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. Do you like Coke? No? Well then, at least there’s Pepsi.

If you’re a Mexican citizen, Carlos Slim is Microsoft, Apple, Coke, Pepsi and GM all rolled into one. In spite of all of Slim’s charitable contributions, Mexico’s working class just doesn’t trust him.

In the last year, this distrust took the form of satire. A cartoon of Slim, depicted as a boxer lying flat on his back in the ring as he crushes a tiny opponent appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Reforma. In the drawing, telephone lines make up the ropes around the ring. Beneath the cartoon a caption reads, “Billion Dollar Baby”.

Around the same time, in a segment on the Mexican TV show, “La Verdad Sea Dicha” (“The Truth Be Told”), a mocking news anchor shoves a pie into the mouth of a papier maché effigy of Slim.

But this attitude is also found in the academic community, where many find the practice of making giant public donations a questionable cover for something else.

One professor, Denise Dresser of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, points out, “In Mexico, the perception is that public deeds are done for personal gain.” In another interview Dresser adds that “a growing public consensus that Slim’s attempts to block competition are hurting the Mexican economy.” She goes on to say, “He wants to ward off those criticisms.”

Dresser is not alone.

George Grayson is an expert on the subject of Latin American politics. For the last 38 years he’s been a faculty member of The College of William and Mary. When interviewed by the L.A. Times on the subject of Mexico’s lack of economic competition, Grayson said, “It is still full of public and private monopolies and bottlenecks.”

In a country where the power of wealth is controlled by a relatively few tight-nit grupos, all of which together are known as “The 100 Families”, the largest monopoly by far is controlled by Carlos Slim.

Once more from Dresser. “Mexico has a dense, intricate web of connections between the government and the business class. This ends up creating a government that doesn’t defend the public interest… It is rather willing to help its friends, its allies and, in some cases, its business partners thrive at the expense of the Mexican people.”

So, what of the monopoly created by Carlos Slim? If Slim has done this much for his own people, whether some trust him or not, shouldn’t we rise from our Comp USA computer chairs and applaud?

Economists say that Mexico actually loses money due to the monopolies controlled by Slim and The 100 Families, causing Mexico’s per capita income to fall to less than $7,000, leaving the country in poverty.

Ask the 10 percent of the Mexican population that currently lives in the United States why they left home.

And why, by working for the decidedly low wages generally available to “illegals” in this country, remittances sent back to Mexico by these workers totaled a record $20 billion in 2005.

So what will it take to, once and for all, bring Mexico to a place where its own citizens will want to return? Slim himself defines his own role in the process.

“My new job,” says Carlos Slim, “is to focus on the development and employment of Latin America.”

If he means employ at a working wage commensurate with the rest of Norte America, he doesn’t say.

So what more will it take for Slim and, for that matter, the rest of the wealthiest of Mexico’s power brokers to satisfy the skepticism of the Mexican working class that distrusts him so much?

Denise Dresser calls it a wish list. One that, “every Mexican committed to his country would ask from Santa Claus.” And that is?

“The day that you (Slim) give 80 percent of your personal fortune to an unselfish cause is the day that I will become your champion.”

Oh. Is that all.

Early next week, Carlos Slim plans to unveil another expansion of his vast charitable, educational and business infrastructural plan to the world.

Will it satisfy his biggest critics?

I guess we’ll see it in the funny pages.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

 

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