Richest Countries in the World 2019

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What do people think when they think about the richest countries in the world? And what comes to mind when they think about the smallest nations in the world? Some would be surprised to find out that the wealthiest nations are also amongst the tiniest.

Some very small and very rich countries—like Luxembourg, Singapore, San Marino and Ireland—benefit from having sophisticated financial sectors and tax regimes that help attract foreign investments and professional talent. Others like Qatar, Brunei and Kuwait have large reserves of hydrocarbons or other lucrative natural resources.

Shimmering casinos and hordes of tourists are good for business too: Macao, Asia’s gambling haven, is the second-most affluent state in the world. Bigger countries with a relatively small population like Norway and the United Arab Emirates, two other oil and gas-rich powerhouses, round up the list of the top 10 richest nations according to the figures released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April 2019.

But what do we mean when we say a country is “rich,” especially in an era of growing income inequality between the rich and everyone else?  While gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of all goods and services produced in a nation, dividing a country’s GDP by the number of the full-time residents is a better way of determining how rich or poor one country’s population is relative to another’s. The reason why “rich” often equals “small” then becomes clear: these countries’ economies are disproportionately large compared to their comparatively small populations.

However, only when taking into account inflation rates and the cost of local goods and services can we get a more accurate picture of a nation’s average standard of living: the resulting figure is what is called purchasing power parity (PPP), which is often expressed international dollars in order to allow comparisons between different countries.

Should we automatically assume that in nations where this figure is particularly high the overall population is visibly better off than in most other places in the word? Not quite. We are dealing with averages and in any given country, structural inequality can tip the balance in favor of the already privileged.

Another question: Should we take economic prosperity at face value? The IMF has warned repeatedly that certain numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, Macao, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Ireland, and the Netherlands are all tax havens which means wealth originally generated in other countries ends up inflating their GDP because of sophisticated accounting and legal practices. More broadly, it is estimated that over 15% of global jurisdictions are tax havens and that about 40% of global foreign direct investment flows are so-called “phantom” transactions, financial investments passing through empty corporate shells with no real influence on a country’s economy and people’s financial wellbeing.

Values are expressed in current international dollars, reflecting a single year’s (the current year) currency exchange rates and PPP adjustments. Data source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2019.


THE 10 RICHEST COUNTRIESIN THE WORLD


10. Hong Kong

Current International Dollars:  66,517 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

A former British colony, this special administrative region of China is a gateway to the mainland and Asia’s top financial center. Ranked 4 among 190 economies in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index thanks to its good infrastructure and many tax incentives, Hong Kong is an incredibly popular destination to launch a start-up, with foreigners allowed to own 100% of their businesses without any citizenship, residency or nationality requirements. As a result, the island as a whole is extremely rich although according to government statistics one in five residents lives below the poverty line. Even so, Hong Kong is the city with the largest number of ultra high-net-worth individuals in the world (over 10,000 people with a net worth of at least $30 million). 


9. Kuwait

Current International Dollars:  67,969 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

The flat Arabian Desert covers most of Kuwait’s territory. It was only in 1938 that oil was discovered under its sands. A lot of oil: Kuwait makes up about 8% of the world’s total reserves. The oil industry accounts today for nearly one-half of the country’s GDP and over 90% of its exports. With a population of approximately 4 million almost entirely concentrated in urban areas, this small state on the northern edge of the Persian Gulf is one of the Middle East’s most advanced and democratic. However, dips in oil prices in recent years have begun to worry the very rich Kuwaitis: in 2015, the government announced the first budget deficit in more than a decade. The country has since then taken steps to diversify its economy by allowing 100% foreign ownership in a number of sectors and offering various tax breaks to investors. Nevertheless, such changes take time to bear fruit. In the meantime, Kuwait’s parliament passed yet another budget projecting a revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year: the fifth in a row.


8. United Arab Emirates

Current International Dollars:  70,474 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Agriculture, fishing and trading pearls: these used to be the economic mainstays of this Persian Gulf nation. Then oil was discovered in the 1950s and everything changed. Today, its highly cosmopolitan population enjoy considerable wealth, traditional Islamic architecture mixes with glitzy shopping centers, and workers come from all over the world lured by tax-free salaries and year-round sunshine (to the extent that only about 20% of the people living in the country are actually locally-born). The United Arab Emirates’ economy is also becoming increasingly diversified. Outside the traditionally dominant hydrocarbon sector, tourism and construction, as well as trade and finance, are major industries. Much anticipated is also the Dubai World Expo 2020, the biggest event the city has ever hosted which is expected to attract some 25 million overseas visitors.


7. Norway

Current International Dollars:  76,738 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Norway’s economic engine is fueled by oil. As western Europe’s top petroleum producer, the country has benefitted from rising prices after years of decline. With massive revenues pumping stimulus into the economy, the central bank governor recently decided to do the unthinkable: hike interest rates to their highest level since 2015. While the rest of Europe flirts with sub-zero rates in order to encourage investment and growth, Scandinavia’s richest nation seems to have the opposite problem: an uptick in inflation, the most glaring signal that the economy is getting stronger. On a side note, it is also important to point out that Norwegian policymakers know that with great GDP growth comes great responsibility: contrary to many other rich nations, high per capita GDP figures are truly a reflection of people’s financial wellbeing. Norway has one of the lowest income inequality gaps in the world.


6. Ireland

Current International Dollars:  82,439 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

European Union economies are going through a rough period. Amid uncertainties tied to Brexit and trade tensions, rising oil prices and Italy’s economic woes, Eurozone officials were forced to slash their growth forecast for the 19 member countries to 1.1%. The Irish economy, however, just keeps growing: in 2019, it will expand by over 4%, consolidating its role as the fastest-growing economy of the bloc following the 2008 financial crisis. A nation of less than 5 million inhabitants, Ireland was one of the hardest hit by the global downturn. Following some politically difficult reform measures, including sharp cuts in public-sector wages and restructuring its banking sector, the island nation regained its fiscal health, boosted it employment rates and saw its per capita GDP almost double to its current levels. Do citizens feel twice as rich as 10 years ago? Probably not: Ireland is one of the world’s largest corporate tax havens, with ordinary people benefitting infinitely far less than companies do. Are they better off nonetheless? Undoubtedly.


5. Brunei Darussalam

Current International Dollars:  83,777 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

1,788 rooms, including 257 bathrooms, a banquet hall that can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, a mosque for 1,500 people, an air-conditioned stable for 200 polo ponies, 5 pools and 18 elevators: this is where Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, lives. His fortune—derived from the immense reserves of oil and natural gas of the country—is estimated at over $20 billion, 40 times that of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. Despite Bolkiah’s opulence, and a per-person GDP of over $86,000, malnutrition in Brunei is commonplace. Something like 440,000 people—40% of the population—earn less than $1,000 a year. As if things were not bad enough, the sultan—whose fortune is said to increase by $147 every second—decided in April 2019 to enact death penalty by flogging and stoning for those who commit adultery and sodomy. Being one of the world’s richest countries clearly does not mean being one of the most just.


4. Singapore

Current International Dollars:  103,717 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Singapore’s economy expanded by 3.2% in 2018, a sharp slowdown compared to 2017, when it grew 3.9%. Global trade tensions can have such effects. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find any clue of this deceleration by looking at the country’s GDP per capita figures. According to the IMF, GDP per capita grew in 2017 grew to over $86,000 from the previous year, reached $89,000 in 2018, and is projected to follow this upward trend in 2019 and until at least 2024, when it is expected to jump to $99,000. How did Singapore become so rich? When Singapore became independent in 1965, one-half of its population was illiterate. With virtually no natural resources, Singapore pulled itself up by its boostraps through hard work and smart policy, becoming one of the most business-friendly places in the world. Today, Singapore is a thriving trade, manufacturing and financial hub and 97% of the adult population is adult literate.


3. Luxembourg

Current International Dollars:  108,813 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

You can visit Luxembourg for its castles and beautiful countryside, its cultural festivals or gastronomic specialties. Or you could just set up an offshore account through one of its banks and never set foot again, as many do. It would a pity though: situated at the very heart of Europe, this nation of about 600,000 has plenty to offer, both to its tourists and its citizens. Luxembourg uses a large share of its wealth to deliver better housing, healthcare and education to its people, who by far enjoy the highest standard of living in the Eurozone. Extraordinarily, it is worth mentioning that both the global financial crisis and the pressure from the EU and OECD to reduce banking secrecy have had little impact on the economy. In 2015, the country topped the $100,000 mark in per capita GDP and never looked back ever since.


2. Macao 

Current International Dollars:  122,201

In Asia’s gambling capital many are betting that Macao will climb to the first spot of the richest nation’s ranking very soon. Formerly a colony of the Portuguese Empire, since the gaming industry was liberalized in 2001 this special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China has seen its wealth growing at astounding pace. With a population just over 600,000, and more than 40 casinos spread over a territory of about 30 square kilometers, this narrow peninsula just south of Hong Kong is—almost literally—a money-making machine.


1. Qatar

Current International Dollars:  134,623 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

About $15,000 is, on average, how much each Qatari citizen has lost each year since the hydrocarbon prices started dropping in 2014. Still, the country’s total GDP per person in 2019 is still projected to remain above $134,000, slightly up from last year. Qatar’s oil, gas and petrochemical reserves are so large, and its population so small—just a little over 2.6 million—that it has topped the list of world’s richest nations for 20 years. This feat is even more remarkable given that Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a blockade on Qatar in 2017.


Gross domestic product (GDP) based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita.

Values are expressed in current international dollars, to the nearest whole dollar, reflecting a single year’s (2018) currency exchange rates and PPP adjustments.​


RankCountryGDP-PPP ($)
1Qatar134,623
2Macao SAR122,201
3Luxembourg108,813
4Singapore103,717
5Brunei Darussalam83,777
6Ireland82,439
7Norway76,738
8United Arab Emirates70,474
9Kuwait67,969
10Hong Kong SAR66,517
11Switzerland65,707
12United States64,767
13San Marino61,552
14Netherlands58,255
15Saudi Arabia56,817
16Iceland56,530
17Taiwan Province of China55,244
18Sweden54,071
19Germany53,854
20Austria53,716
21Australia53,559
22Denmark53,552
23Bahrain50,868
24Canada50,626
25Belgium49,480
26Malta48,246
27Finland48,006
28France46,978
29United Kingdom46,782
30Oman46,476
31Japan45,565
32South Korea42,985
33Cyprus41,836
34Spain41,538
35New Zealand41,179
36Puerto Rico40,796
37Italy40,206
38Aruba40,160
39Israel39,160
40Czech Republic39,088
41Slovenia38,634
42Slovak Republic37,021
43Lithuania36,997
44Estonia35,718
45The Bahamas34,421
46Poland33,747
47Hungary33,708
48Portugal33,166
49Trinidad and Tobago32,684
50Malaysia32,455
51Seychelles31,809
52Latvia31,491
53St. Kitts and Nevis31,095
54Greece30,506
55Russia30,284
56Antigua and Barbuda29,298
57Kazakhstan28,515
58Romania27,753
59Croatia27,580
60Turkey27,391
61Panama27,305
62Chile27,059
63Mauritius25,029
64Bulgaria24,485
65Uruguay24,052
66Maldives23,154
67Equatorial Guinea21,441
68Mexico21,107
69Belarus20,820
70Thailand20,474
71Argentina20,425
72Turkmenistan20,409
73Montenegro19,908
74China19,520
75Dominican Republic19,516
76Gabon19,159
77Barbados18,798
78Azerbaijan18,794
79Botswana18,654
80Serbia18,567
81Islamic Republic of Iran18,505
82Costa Rica18,183
83Iraq18,008
84Grenada17,071
85Brazil16,662
86North Macedonia16,455
87Algeria15,765
88Colombia15,576
89Suriname15,526
90Palau15,369
91Lebanon15,208
92St. Lucia15,000
93Peru14,892
94Mongolia14,270
95Bosnia and Herzegovina14,164
96Albania14,102
97Egypt14,028
98Indonesia14,019
99Sri Lanka13,954
100Paraguay13,913
101South Africa13,865
102Tunisia12,801
103Nauru12,433
104St. Vincent and the Grenadines12,431
105Georgia12,282
106Kosovo12,154
107Libya12,051
108Ecuador11,700
109 Namibia11,369
110Eswatini11,089
111Dominica10,866
112Armenia10,828
113Fiji10,710
114Bhutan10,015
115Ukraine9,743
116Jamaica9,729
117Jordan9,651
118Philippines9,494
119Morocco9,284
120Guyana8,974
121Guatemala8,709
122Belize8,642
123Lao P.D.R.8,485
124India8,484
125El Salvador8,313
126Uzbekistan8,065
127Vietnam8,063
128Bolivia7,790
129Cabo Verde7,727
130Moldova7,700
131Republic of Congo7,119
132Myanmar7,029
133Ghana6,998
134Angola6,763
135Tonga6,496
136Samoa6,135
137Nigeria6,098
138Pakistan5,839
139Timor-Leste5,561
140Nicaragua5,433
141Honduras5,390
142Bangladesh4,993
143Cambodia4,643
144Còte d’Ivoire4,454
145Tuvalu4,275
146Mauritania4,201
147Zambia4,177
148Sudan4,089
149Djibouti3,999
150Kyrgyz Republic3,979
151Cameroon3,965
152Kenya3,863
153Senegal3,864
154Papua New Guinea3,789
155Marshall Islands3,788
156Micronesia3,584
157Tajikistan3,578
158Tanzania3,573
159Lesotho3,564
160Sao Tomè and Prìncipe3,441
161Nepal3,115
162Vanuatu2,932
163The Gambia2,903
164Uganda2,622
165Zimbabwe2,620
166Benin2,562
167Ethiopia2,517
168Chad2,505
169Mali2,474
170Rwanda2,444
171Guinea2,429
172Yemen2,404
173Solomon Islands2,297
174Kiribati2,134
175Burkina Faso2,096
176Afghanistan2,086
177Guinea-Bissau2,025
178Haiti1,903
179Togo1,820
180Eritrea1,718
181Sierra Leone1,701
182Madagascar1,698
183Comoros1,662
184South Sudan1,613
185Liberia1,413
186Mozambique1,331
187Niger1,280
188Malawi1,234
189Democratic Republic of the Congo791
190Central African Republic746
191Burundi727

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook April 2019.


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Sande Kennedy

Sande Kennedy is the founder of SandeKennedy.com & Kenyans247.com He is a Kenyan-based Internetprenuer,blogger Political Activist,informer who has an interest in politics, governance, corporate-fraud and human-interest. Kindly drop me a note if you feel aggrieved on any matter that you would want to be highlighted. Twitter @itssandekennedy , Instagram @itssandekennedy WhatsApp: +254791890826 Read More about me here

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