Welfare Minister Tops Indonesian Rich List: Forbes

Welfare Minister Aburizal BakrieJAKARTA ~ Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie and his family, under fire for their company’s role in an oozing mud volcano that has displaced thousands, has topped Forbes Asia’s 2007 Indonesia rich list, the magazine said on Thursday.

Bakrie and his family saw their net worth blow out to US$5.4 billion this year, up from $1.2 billion in 2006, when they were sixth on the list, according to the title’s December 24 edition.

The largest contributor to their wealth gain came from surging stock prices in Bakrie Group’s largest holding, coal producer Bumi Resources, it reported.

Bakrie has faced sustained criticism over the role his part-owned company Lapindo Brantas played in triggering the mud volcano in Sidoarjo, East Java, which began spurting in May 2006 during exploratory gas drilling by Lapindo.

While many experts say the company’s negligence led to the flow, Lapindo maintains that it was caused by a nearby earthquake.

Some 10,000 victims have been told to accept compensation from Lapindo for their land, with no payout for other losses such as houses and material goods.

Overall, Forbes reported that the 40 wealthiest Indonesians added $18 billion to their combined wealth this year, bringing it up to $40 billion. The country is now home to 11 billionaires, up from seven last year.

Following the Bakries on the Forbes list was pulp, paper and palm oil tycoon Sukanto Tanoto, whose wealth increased from $2.8 billion to $4.7 billion this year. He was in top spot last year.

The ranking of Tanoto, whose largest companies April and Asian Agri own massive plantations both in Indonesia and abroad, comes as his home country hosts an international conference to negotiate a new pact on climate change.

April, which has a history of clearing virgin forests, has made efforts to green its image, including sending representatives to the conference in Bali.

Deforestation is a major source of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

A new face on the list was Bambang Trihatmodjo, the second son of former president Suharto, at number 33 with an estimated wealth of $200 million. He owns 13 percent of media conglomerate Global Mediacom.

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