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Who Are the World’s Most Influential People?

You can probably at least guess who some of the most influential/powerful people in the world are, but Forbes magazine goes a little further than guess-work, and their editors annually come up with a definitive list, which is comprised of one person for every 100 million on earth, ie 74 people whose actions and control have the most effect on significant numbers of the population.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people high up in the political, financial and business worlds figure prominently on the list, as do some of the individually richest people, but the method of selecting the highest rankings is logical, although of course the list is still somewhat subjective and therefore debateable.

The first of Forbes’ criteria asks

‘Does the person exercise power over many people?’ (NB – North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (#43) has near absolute control over the lives of the 25 million people who live in his country, and is known to punish dissent with death).

Secondly

‘Just how much financial clout does the person have, directly and/or indirectly, including some of the richest individuals?’ GDP is the measure for political leaders, and revenues and profit for business leaders.

The third question asks

‘Is the person powerful in more than one sphere?’ When selecting only 74 people, being powerful in two or more areas is clearly beneficial. Elon Musk at #21 exercises considerable influence through TESLA in the automotive industry, and in space/satellites through SpaceX.

The fourth criteria

assesses whether the person actually utilises their power, how, and over what numbers of the population, nationally or internationally, for better or worse? There are many ‘rich’ people who actually choose to have very little direct influence in the world – or even on the company they notionally ‘own’ – although still perhaps as philanthropists.

Finally

all editors are asked to assess the nominated people on each of these criteria, and all their scores are averaged into a definitive complete score, and hence ranking. It should be noted that the rankings are based on something of a crystal ball scenario – ie who is likely to exercise the most influence in the coming year, not necessarily who has the best record to date.

A few general observations

11 people on the list are appearing for the first time, plus two re-entries.
Only six women appear on the list, and although two are ranked in the top six, this represents just 8%: two are political leaders, two high in the financial world, and two CEOS.

23 countries are represented, with the highest number by country being 32 from the USA.
Both the youngest (Mark Zuckerberg aged 32 – Facebook) and the oldest (Warren Buffett aged 86 – investor), are from the US.

Politicians/leaders fill 28 slots, including significantly Pope Francis at #5 who influences well over a billion Catholics in a myriad number of countries.

Several notorious, but undoubtedly influential figures appear – #43 Kim Jong-un, #63 Bashar al-Assad, #70 Rodrigo Duterte, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (#57 – Islamic State) and Ayman al-Zawahiri (#71 – Al Qaeda).

Barack Obama(#48) and Francois Hollande(#23) are listed, even though their influence will diminish significantly as they vacate their respective presidencies.

John Roberts(#50), the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court is included in this category as he is a political appointee, and as such is extremely influential regarding US constitutional matters.

There is a big spread regarding age, as already intimated – eight listed are over 80, seven are in their 70s, 28 in their 60s, 18 more over 50, 11 in their 40s, and apart from Mark Zuckerberg just Kim Jong-un in their 30s. Success is apparently gained through experience as evidenced across all sectors, although not necessarily in the business of IT.

Rankings:

Forbes ranks Russian President Vladimir Putin as the most powerful person in the world for the fourth year in a row; his officially unknown personal fortune may also be a significant factor in how he wields power.

Ranked second – in the world’s richest democratic country and regardless of his demeanour – is US President-elect Donald Trump, although as has been seen with his predecessor, the co-operation of Congress is often essential in the wielding of presidential power. Trump is also wealthy, but his net worth is also indeterminate.

The most powerful woman in the world is ranked number three overall, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who exercises considerable influence over the European Union too, as Germany is by far the strongest economy in Europe.

Xi Jinping, leader of the world’s most populous nation China, is ranked at four – the sheer size and potential economic as well as military strength of the country under his control is reason enough for his position on the list.

The top five is rounded out by Pope Francis, not only because of the 1.2 billion Catholics who (usually) hang on his every word, but also because of the financial strength of the Vatican, estimated by some authoritative sources to be the richest entity in the world – certainly a very useful influential tool to have in your bag.

The highest ranked person in the financial world is Chair of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen at #6 – she effectively controls the Federal Reserve interest rate, which has a huge effect on the availability of money in the US, as it sets the minimum interest rate at which money can be borrowed.

At #7 is Bill Gates, with the highest (official) personal fortune in the world estimated at over $80 billion, but who distributes his wealth through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is highly respected and therefore influential, not simply for his wealth and how he earned it, but also for his extremely generous philanthropic activities, which may inadvertently wield a certain amount of influence. He remains a Microsoft board member, but retains a mere 2.5% of company shares.

Larry Page of Alphabet – the umbrella company which controls Google – is the highest ranked CEO at #8; enough said? Ah! He also has personal net worth estimated at close to $40 billion!

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi at #9, has at least official control over the world’s most populous democracy, but is actually acknowledged to be widely popular on a personal level too – not always the case with those in power even in a democracy – and so is an effective ruler of 1.3 billion people.

The aforementioned Mark Zuckerberg at #10 is the co- creator and founder of Facebook. As (social) media strength is so powerful around the world today, who can doubt the influence of this young man, though even he could not have anticipated just what that would mean when his innovation was launched just 12 years ago in 2004? Personal wealth – over $50 billion.

One other person worth mentioning who doesn’t appear in the top 25, nor in the other lists below, is #27 Doug McMillon, CEO of Wal-Mart, which with 2.3 million employees is the largest private employer in the world.

The remaining influential people in the top 25 rankings are:

Rank Name Position
11 Mario Draghi Governor, European Central Bank
12 Li Keqiang Premier, PRC
13 Theresa May Premier, UK
14 Jeff Bezos Amazon.com
15 Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway (investor)
16 Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud King, Saudi Arabia
17 Carlos Slim Helu America Movil
18 Ali Hoseini-Khamenei Iran (effective ruler)
19 Jamie Dimon JP Morgan Chase
20 Benjamin Netanyahu Premier, Israel
21 Elon Musk Tesla Motors
22 Jeffrey Immelt General Electric
23 Francois Hollande President, France
24 Rex Tillerson ExxonMobil
25 Christine Lagarde MD, International Monetary Fund

The females in the rankings are:

Rank Name Position
3 Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany
6 Janet Yellen US Federal Reserve Chairperson
13 Theresa May Premier, UK
25 Christine Lagarde Managing Director, IMF
61 Ginni Rometti CEO, IBM
62 Mary Barra CEO, General Motors

The top five in the world of finance are:

Rank Name Position
6 Janet Yellen Governor, US Federal Reserve System
11 Mario Draghi Governor, European Central Bank
15 Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway, Investor
25 Christine Lagarde Managing Director, IMF
42 Jim Yong Kim President, World Bank

The top five CEO/business leaders are:

Rank Name Position
8 Larry Page CEO, Alphabet (Google)
10 Mark Zuckerberg CEO/Chairman, Facebook
14 Jeff Bezos CEO, Amazon.com
17 Carlos Slim Helu Chairman, America Movil
19 Jamie Dimon CEO, JPMorgan Chase

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