Barack Obama

Obama, Merkel top Forbes' list of world's most powerful people

From saints to sinners, Forbes magazine ranks those who would rule their worlds

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 5:22am


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The US president leads it, and then there's the Pope, and Angela Merkel, and Facebook's founder, and other global rainmakers on Forbes' ranking of the mightiest earthlings.

There are even two Hong Kong worthies, one the quintessential tycoon and the other a servant of the public good.

But the magazine's 2012 list of the planet's 71 most powerful people also features folks who might raise an eyebrow or two: a Mexican drug baron and the young leader of North Korea, a hermit state assailed for pursuing a nuclear programme at the expense of feeding its poor people.

Last year's No.2 on the list, Chinese President Hu Jintao , is among the heavyweights off the list altogether this time because he's on his way out of office. His successor, Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping , is the first Chinese on the list at No.9, one place behind Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, but one place ahead of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang appears at No.13, while Li Ka-shing is the first of Hong Kong's power players deemed worthy of the list. He appears at No.31, just one place behind UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The other Hong Kong figure is Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, director general of the World Health Organisation, ranked at No.58.

The ranking features 71 names because there are an estimated 7.1 billion people in the world and thus the ranking works out to one very heavy hitter for every 100 million people. By that reckoning, Hong Kong is punching about 30 times above its weight.

For the second year in a row, US President Barack Obama led the rankings, with Forbes noting that he won the popular vote, an electoral college majority and seven out of seven toss-up states in the November election.

The silver medal of power went to Merkel, the German chancellor, whom Forbes described as the backbone of the 27-member European Union and the person who carries the fate of the euro on her shoulders. Third place went to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates was fourth, while Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, ranked fifth. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was 25th. He dropped from 9th in last year's ranking because Facebook's debut this year as a listed company was a dud, Forbes said.

One less-than-savory name on the list: Mexican billionaire Joaquin Guzman Loera, the Sinaloa Cartel leader who Forbes said is responsible for many of the illegal narcotics entering the United States every year, ranked 63rd.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, 29, who took over from his late father Kim Jong-il this year, ranked 44th. Forbes said some observers believe one of his uncles is actually in charge - but that in any case, satellite footage shows a message praising the younger Kim carved into a hillside in his "reclusive, rusting nuclear state" measuring half a kilometre long.