By Gayatri Suroyo and Cindy Silviana
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s 50 richest people increased their wealth by about $7 billion this year as growth in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy recovered and the stock market raced ahead, according to a Forbes list released on Thursday.
The business magazine said the combined net worth of the top 50 rose to $99 billion.
Heading the list were Budi and Michael Hartono, whose joint wealth was put at $17.1 billion. The brothers’ wealth was partly boosted by the rising value of their shares in PT Bank Central Asia Tbk
Despite its growing middle class, inequality in Indonesia is increasing faster than in most of its East Asian neighbors, the World Bank said in a report last year.
Indonesia’s wealthiest 1 percent control 49.3 percent of its wealth, Credit Suisse said in a November report, which placed Indonesia among countries with the most unequal distribution of wealth in the world. [http://bit.ly/2fGkpa1]
The eighth richest Indonesian man on the Forbes list, Tahir, the founder of the Mayapada Group, said the increased wealth may also be due to a tax amnesty aimed at pushing the rich to repatriate offshore wealth, or register it with authorities.
“We’re registering all our properties in Indonesia and Singapore,” said Tahir, who goes by one name and is estimated by Forbes to be worth $3.1 billion.
Indonesia’s economy is expected to grow 5 percent this year, the central bank estimates, up from 4.8 percent in 2015.
Many of the tycoons are of Chinese descent, even though they only make up just over 1 percent of Indonesia’s 250 million people, according to the latest census data. Their control of trade and business has in the past caused resentment.
Indonesia’s stock market <.JKSE> has risen 13 percent this year, one of the best performers in the region.
Tobacco tycoon Susilo Wonowidjojo also recorded higher net worth due to the rising value of his family’s cigarette company PT Gudang Garam Tbk
Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who runs a media-to-property empire, was 29th on the list with his wealth estimated at $1.15 billion.
The tycoon is one of the few with established links to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump has a partnership with Tanoesoedibjo, who controls the MNC Group conglomerate, to manage hotels on the Indonesian island of Bali and in the West Java city of Bogor.
The richest Indonesians saw their combined wealth drop by $9 billion in 2015 due to lower commodity prices and a weaker rupiah currency.
(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo and Cindy Silviana; Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Robert Birsel)