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Forbes Wealthiest List Reflects Changes in Global Economy

Forbe's Magazine chairman Steve Forbes
Forbe's Magazine chairman Steve Forbes

The billionaires' club is growing. Forbes magazine's annual list shows there are now 1,210 billionaires around the world - that is 199 more than last year. Although the world's top three earners are unchanged from last year, the newcomers in the list of the world's richest, did not come from the U.S. or Western Europe, but from Russia and the Asia Pacific region.

The magazine's list of the world's richest people mirrors the remarkable changes in the global economy.

Magazine chairman Steve Forbes says of the 200 new billionaires this year, the majority are from the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"In terms of Asia-Pacific, the number increase of billionaires was almost 40 percent. In terms of the BRIC's, you saw Russia go from 62 billionaires to 101, Brazil from 18 to 30. And so what this underscores is that there is dynamism in the world economy, but it's not in the United States and it's not in Western Europe," he said.

The top of the list remained unchanged.

Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim retains the top spot with a net worth of $74 billion. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is second with $53 billion, after giving away $28 billion to charity. And investor Warren Buffet retains third place with $50 billion, up from $47 billion last year. But Russian social media billionaire Yuri Milner takes the front cover. His hometown Moscow has 79 billionaires, the most of any major city.

The U.S. still has more billionaires than any other country, but the wealth gap is narrowing.

The number of new billionaires in China has doubled. Robin Li, the CEO of search engine Baidu, is one of China's richest men - with more than $9 billion. Forbes editor Russell Flannery says Li's success symbolizes the changes going on in China.

"We're really seeing the culmination of decades of successful economic reform in China. Private sector companies are getting a lot more legal protection, a lot more financial sector support than they ever had before," Flannery said.

But Chinese consumers say the government must do more to help its middle class. "I think it is good news. It is good for our country to have more and more rich people. But I just feel the rich-poor gap is widening, so maybe the government can do something and make the ordinary people richer. That would be a better result," one man said.

It's not just the Chinese who worry about the income gap. In the U.S., 10 percent of the people own about 38 percent of the nation's net worth.

But Forbes says things are not so simple. "These are not people who are sitting on piles of jewels. They're creating businesses and if the businesses do not do well which means, that you have to have customers who have the means to make these businesses go, then we all end up losing. So, these are creators, they're not plutocrats. These are doers, making things happen and when they do well, we all do well," Forbes said.

Despite a difficult recession for many, the wealth of the world's billionaires is up 25 percent. And their average net worth is now $3.7 billion - $3.5 billion last year.