Friday, November 27, 2009

Oprah Out-earns a Country: my birthday and the poverty of a continent

This morning while nursing my mini-hangover (the aftermath of Grey Goose on ice, lots of sushi, unknown quantities of red wine and Irish coffee to finish), I happened upon the bill from my birthday dinner.

It turns out that to feed a lovely crew of 12, along with our share of drinks and sweets, we spent the equivalent of 10 months salary of my gardener.

Wow, that really puts things in perspective. Filling the bellies of 12 people in one evening… added up to 10 months salary for an average Ghanaian?!

Besides feeling like a true Expat – in every spoiled sense of the word – it sparked my interested to take a look at the disparities that abound all around me.

Today I found out that the annual revenue for the entire country of Sierra Leone (one of Ghana’s close neighbors on the West African coast) is USD $96million.

Oprah Winfrey alone made over two and a half times that… OF AN ENTIRE COUNTRY!!! According to Forbes list she pulled in $275million over the same period.

Tiger Woods and Madonna also out-earned Sierra Leone, with over $100m each…

Here’s another eye opening fact. The list below is the GDP per capita (ANNUAL take home pay) of the average person in these countries:

Ten Poorest Countries (based on 2004 GNP per capita in US$)

1. Burundi ... $90
2. Ethiopia ... $110
3. Democratic Republic of Congo ... $110
4. Liberia ... $110
5. Malawi ... $160
6. Guinea-Bissau ... $160
7. Eritrea ... $190
8. Niger ... $210
9. Sierra Leone ... $210
10. Rwanda ... $210

All of these countries are in Africa, and each figure is less than I spend at the Supermarket (in Africa!) every Saturday. People are surviving (really?!) on $200 per year?!!!

I feel a gratitude list coming on, but also a reality check.

Oprah’s 55th birthday this year (celebrated with a Mediterranean cruise for 1700 of her closest friends), cost $10m.

Equivalent to the annual income of over 100,000 Burundians.

Now I don’t feel so bad.
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Heather said...

that is an obscene amount of money for one person! 275 million? it makes your head spin.

Matthew said...

It certainly puts things in perspective. I'm really not sure how we justify such exorbitant payments to entertainers when you look at the disparity of wealth in the world.

The pale observer said...

Yep! Insane! For an individual to make more in a year than a country?!

ogyakromian! said...

It's called capitalism unfortunately the only realistic form of governance the world has.

akasoulkyrie said...

Shocking to learn that one person alone is worth and made more than a country twice over. It's insane but a very real reality.

#167 Dad said...

Don't know how to get my brain around the numbers.
I guess if therte's one thing life aint, it's fair...
Happy birthday.

Land of shimp said...

That's a staggering amount of money for one person to make, isn't it? It's actually just a staggering amount of money, period.

It isn't just the disparity of wealth in the world, it's that when I stop and think about what that number represents. The work, the wear and tear on a human being, to make $210.00 a year, or less. The amount of toil, and effort that goes into Sierra Leone's income, versus the amount of actual work that goes into Oprah's income, it really is mind boggling.

I think having a birthday dinner is an awfully reasonable thing to do, but spending $10 million dollars to celebrate a birthday?

I can't see any justification for that, for anyone. Bill Gates is a ridiculously wealthy man, but at least he actually produces something tangible.

I know Oprah's studios employ people and produce jobs but I suppose the most surprising, and rather horrifying thing is how little actual worth there is in her work.

Land of shimp said...

By the way, what does it take to give you a major hangover?? If I mix alcohols at all, I may as well lie about in a coffin the entire next day.

The pale observer said...

Dear Land of Shimp - (I choose to reply to the less mind-boggling concepts) - the trick for me is having all this alcohol over many hours, with water in between each one, and at the end of the night, a HUGE glass of water (or bottle) with 2 Tylenol. Usually wake up ok the next day. (Please don't think this happens often! It's just that by 40, one thing I do know is my body and what it takes to get through a celebration! :)

Clarisse Teagen said...

i don't see the point of the whining??

Gayle Pescud said...

"Today I found out that the annual revenue for the entire country of Sierra Leone (one of Ghana’s close neighbors on the West African coast) is USD $96million." This is a great post as always. Ronaldo got 90 million to transfer from Man U to Real Madrid. The things we could do with one footballer's annual income!

The pale observer said...

Indeed Gayle!! Or just one month of a footballer or Oprah's income!!!

The pale observer said...

Clarisse - If I didn't whine, I'd have nothing to blog about!

Anonymous said...

Buying memory cards is such a time consuming process... You have to Google prices, filter through which ones are legit, go out to a bunch of stores,compare prices, finally buy your memory, and then hope that the price doesn't fall in the next month or so.

I've been f'd over by crazy price changes in the past... especially this one time when I bought a Micro SD for my DS flashcard at what apparently was a steal, only to later see that it had dropped by $5 in a week's time.

(Posted from Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i[/url] NetPostv2)

Anonymous said...

Oprah at least spends part of her income towards educating girls in South Africa. I think she deserves a $10M party. Why blame the players, when team owners agree to pay the exhorbitant salaries.

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