Oligarchs and Festooned Hyperbole

Oligarchs and Festooned Hyperbole

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)

March 11, 2007

In past 12 months the world's third richest man Mr. Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico made about $2.2 million per hour. What an astonishing figure! What a success story from the land of Mexico whose reputation, fairly and unfairly, to be the "illegal immigrants" of America in the north, or perhaps low wage workers in the farm picking apples, oranges, or doing ever tedious dish washing in countless American restaurants.

Mr. Carlos Slim Helu is indeed a success story. Himself from a Lebanese immigrant family, he is a self-made man who has exceptional business acumen. In merely less than two decades, Mr. Slim Helu created this giant empire of his with steadfast management and effective direction of his mega corporation. His current worth is the whopping $49 billion, of this "miracle" number he has made about $19 billion in past 12 months alone. Now the Mexicans whose average earning is about $2.00 a day use Mr. Slim Helu's variety of services:

Mexicans buy cigarettes from Slim's tobacco company, apply for mortgages at his bank and purchase policies at his insurance firm. Shoppers patronize his department stores, eat at his restaurants and browse for CDs at his music outlets.

Travelers fly his discount airline. Industrialists buy his auto parts, electronics, steel and ceramic tile. The government hires his infrastructure firm to build highways, water treatment plants and oil platforms.

One may ask with variable whisper: What is the secret of Mr. Slim Helu's "fairy tale" like success? Is it only his business acumen and right stewardship the reason behind his immense wealth accumulation? Or could it be his and many other oligarch like him who had used and are using unfair means, like stifling fair competition, using Mexico's incompetent government's unwillingness "to inject anything like real competition in the country's main industries. Even today, there are just two rival television companies in Mexico, five radio stations and just two brewing concerns, even if they churn out countless brands. And there are only two food processors in the whole country. "Mexico is just suffused with obstacles to competition," George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary told the Los Angeles Times. "It is still full of public and private monopolies and bottlenecks."

Mexico, a country whose economy is ruled by its "100 families" dynasty, who live in secluded palaces, away from poverty stricken slums. Mr. Slim Helu represents the head of these dispassionate oligarchs. "They drive the latest luxury imports, protect themselves from the ever-present danger of kidnappings with bodyguards, and regularly jet in and out of the United States on extravagant shopping expeditions."

They have stranglehold on the media since these oligarch dynasty controls "94% of the nation's television stations and virtually all of the industry's advertising revenue, making Mexico the most closed TV market in Latin America outside Cuba."

Mr. Slim Helu's story is not quite different from other oligarchs of our world. From faraway Bangladesh where politicians and industrialists reaped away unimaginable amount of money through unchecked corruptions, to ever pristine corporate hooliganism in North America (remember Enron? Military-Industrial complex?) and Europe, their omnipresent presence under supposedly benevolent governments' radar could certainly raise and stretch eyebrows from well meaning men and women, law abiding, taxpaying, but quite not comprehending what is really going on behind festooned hyperbole.