Many of the world’s richest countries are also the world’s smallest: the pandemic and the global economic slowdown barely made a dent in their huge wealth.

Many of the world’s richest countries are also the world’s smallest: the pandemic and the global economic slowdown barely made a dent in their huge wealth.

What do people think when they think about the world’s richest countries? And what comes to mind when they think about the world’s smallest countries? Many people would probably be surprised to find that many of the planet’s wealthiest nations are also among the tiniest.

Some very small and very rich countries—like San Marino, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Singapore—benefit from having sophisticated financial sectors and tax regimes that attract foreign investment, professional talent and large bank deposits. Others like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have large reserves of hydrocarbons or other lucrative natural resources. Shimmering casinos and hordes of tourists are good for business too: Asia’s gambling haven Macao remains one of the most affluent states in the world despite having endured almost three years of intermittent lockdowns and pandemic-related travel restrictions.

But what do we mean when we say a country is “rich,” especially in an era of growing income inequality between the super-rich and everyone else? While gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of all goods and services produced in a nation, dividing this output by the number of 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 small number of inhabitants.

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), often expressed international dollars to allow comparisons between different countries.

Should we then automatically assume that in nations where PPP is particularly high the overall population is visibly better off than in most other places in the world? Not quite. We are dealing with averages and within each country structural inequalities can easily swing the balance in favor of those who are already advantaged.

The COVID-19 pandemic lifted the veil on these disparities in ways few could have predicted. While there is no doubt that the wealthiest nations—often more vulnerable to the coronavirus due to their older population and other risk factors—had the resources to take better care of those in need, those resources were not equally accessible to all. Furthermore, the economic fallout of lockdowns hit low-paid workers harder than those with high-paying occupations and that, in turn, fueled a new kind of inequality between those who could comfortably work from home and those who had to risk their health and safety by traveling to job sites. Those who lost their jobs because their industries shut down entirely found themselves without much of a safety net—large holes in the most celebrated welfare systems in the world were exposed.

Then as the pandemic subsided, inflation surged globally and Russia invaded Ukraine, exacerbating the food and oil price crisis. Once again, lower-income families were hit hardest as they were forced to spend greater proportions of their incomes on basic necessities—housing, food, energy and transportation—whose prices are more volatile and tend to increase the most.

In the 10 poorest countries in the world, the average per-capita purchasing power is $1,432 while in the 10 richest it is over $105,170 according to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A word of caution about these statistics: the IMF has warned repeatedly that certain numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, many nations in our ranking are tax havens, which means their wealth was originally generated elsewhere which artificially inflates their GDP. While a global deal to ensure that big companies pay a minimum tax rate of 15% was signed in 2021 by more than 130 governments (a deal that has yet to be implemented due to the opposition of legislators and politicians in many of them), critics have argued that this rate is barely higher than that tax havens like Ireland, Qatar and Macao. It is estimated that over 15% of global jurisdictions are tax havens and the IMF has estimated further that by the end of the 2020s, about 40% of global foreign direct investment flows could be attributed to shrewd tax-evading tactics, up from 30% in the 2010s. In other words: these investments pass through empty corporate shells and bring little or no economic gain to the population where the money ends up.

THE 10 RICHEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD:

10. United States🇺🇸

Current International Dollars: 80,412 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Did we say that the wealthiest countries are also the smallest? That is not the case, of course, with the United States which first entered the top 10 list in 2020 after hovering just beyond tenth place for the better part of the past two decades.

America’s entry and continuing presence in the top 10 is partially attributable to falling energy prices, as well as pandemic-driven state spending and other economic stimulus measures. Falling energy prices pushed petroleum-based economies like Qatar, Norway and the United Arab Emirates down several rankings while Brunei fell out of the top 10 entirely.

Meanwhile, the surge in government spending on social programs boosted aggregate demand significantly. As a result, the US had its shortest recession on record in early 2020, lasting only two months. The American job market too has recovered since the start of the pandemic, although record-high inflation has often eaten into workers’ wages.

9. Norway🇳🇴

Current International Dollars: 82,236 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Since the discovery of large offshore reserves in the late 1960s, Norway’s economic engine has been fueled by oil. As Western Europe’s top petroleum producer, the country has benefitted for decades from rising prices.

Until it didn’t: prices crashed at the beginning of 2020, then the global pandemic ensued—and the krone was sent into freefall. In the second quarter of that year, Norwegian GDP fell by 6.3 %, the biggest decline in half a century and possibly since World War Two.

Does that mean Norwegians became significantly less wealthy than they were before the pandemic? Certainly not. After the initial shock, the economy gradually pared the losses and rebounded.

Further, when it comes to any unforeseen economic problem, Norwegians can always count on their $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest. Not only that, unlike many other rich nations, Norway’s high per capita GDP figures are a reasonably accurate reflection of the average person’s economic well-being. The country boasts one of the smallest income inequality gaps in the world.

8. San Marino🇸🇲

Current International Dollars: 84,135

Tiny San Marino is the oldest republic in Europe and the fifth smallest country on the map. It may have only 34,000 citizens, but it is among the wealthiest citizenry in the world. It helps that income tax rates are very low, at about one-third of the EU average. Nonetheless, San Marino is working towards harmonizing its fiscal laws and regulations with those of the European Union (EU) and international standards.

The tiny nation showed remarkable resilience during the pandemic and after amid tight monetary conditions and the energy crisis, with its tourism industry and manufacturing sector turning especially strong performances.

7. United Arab Emirates🇦🇪

Current International Dollars: 88,962 | 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, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) highly cosmopolitan population enjoys 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; only about 20% of the people living in the country are actually locally-born.

The UAE’s economy is also becoming increasingly diversified. Outside of the traditionally dominant hydrocarbon sector, tourism, construction, trade and finance are major industries. This is not to say that the UAE was not impacted by the pandemic and the concomitant fall of oil prices: quite the contrary. Incredible as it may seem, the UAE briefly slipped out of the IMF’s ranking of the richest countries globally for the first time in decades. Yet fossil fuels have not gone out of fashion: as soon as energy prices recovered, the UAE quickly regained its historic position among the top 10 richest countries in the world.

6. Switzerland🇨🇭

Current International Dollars: 89,537 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

White chocolate, the bobsleigh, the Swiss Army knife, the computer mouse, the immersion blender, velcro, and LSD are just some of the noteworthy inventions brought to the world by Switzerland. This country of about 8.8 million people owes much of its wealth to banking and insurance services, to tourism, and to the export of pharmaceuticals products, gems, precious metals, precision instruments (think watches) and machinery (medical apparatuses and computers).

According to the 2023 Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse, Switzerland once again came out on top when it comes to the mean average wealth per adult at a whopping $685,230. Furthermore, roughly one adult in six owns assets worth more than one million U.S. dollars. Is it really a surprise that Switzerland has the highest density of millionaires in the world?

But does that mean the Swiss don’t have any economic worries at all? Not only the pandemic had a significant impact on the economy, but—due to the country’s heavy reliance on imports of oil and gas from Russia—the war in Ukraine led to a surge in energy prices and triggered supply chain disruptions. Further, in 2022 Credit Suisse nearly imploded before a government-engineered rescue by its long-time rival, UBS Group, pulled it back from the edge. The demise of Credit Suisse has shaken the country, damaging Switzerland’s reputation as a secure and reliable global banking center.

5. Macao SAR🇲🇴

Current International Dollars: 98,157

Just a few years ago, many were betting that the Las Vegas of Asia was on its way to becoming the richest nation in the world. Formerly a colony of the Portuguese Empire, the gaming industry was liberalized in 2001 this special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China has seen its wealth growing at an astounding pace. With a population of about 700,000, and more than 40 casinos spread over a territory of about 30 square kilometers, this narrow peninsula just south of Hong Kong became a money-making machine.

That, at least, was until the machine started losing money rather than making it. When Covid struck, global traveling came to a halt, and for a while Macao even slipped out of the 10 richest nations ranking. Today, Macao is slowly returning to business as usual. Still, its per-capita purchasing power remains considerably lower than before the global health emergency—it was about $125,000 in 2019 and is down by more than $25,000 today.

4. Qatar🇶🇦

Current International Dollars: 114,210 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

Despite the recent recovery, oil prices have on average declined since the mid-2010s. In 2014, the per-capita GDP of a Qatari citizen was over $143,222; one year later, it plunged significantly and remained below the $100,000 mark for the next five years. However, that figure has gradually grown, increasing by about $10,000 each year.

Still, Qatar’s oil, gas and petrochemical reserves are so large and its population so small—just 2.7 million—that this marvel of ultramodern architecture, luxury shopping malls and fine cuisine has managed to stay atop the list of the world’s richest nations for 20 years.

No rich country, however, is without its problems. With only about 12% of the country’s residents being Qatari nationals, the initial months of the pandemic saw Covid-19 spreading rapidly among low-income migrant workers living in crowded quarters, triggering one of the highest rates of positive cases in the region. Then, falling energy prices meant falling government and private sector revenues. An export-oriented economy, Qatar also suffered from the disruption in global trade caused by the war in Ukraine.

Even so, the economy has proven to be sufficiently resilient. It is projected to grow by 2.1% in 2024 and by 3.7% next year.

3. Singapore🇸🇬

Current International Dollars: 133,108 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

The richest person living in Singapore is the founder of the medical equipment firm Mindray, Li Xiting, whose net worth is estimated at $15.6 billion. Brothers and property developers Robert and Philip Ng are second, and Goh Cheng Liang of Wuthelam Holdings, which manufactures paints and coatings, comes in third. In fourth place with assets of about $9.6 billion (although for many years he occupied the top spot of the ranking) is Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of Facebook, who in 2011 left the U.S. with 53 million shares of the company and became a permanent resident of the island nation. Saverin did not choose it just for its urban attractions or natural gateways: Singapore is an affluent fiscal haven where capital gains and dividends are tax-free.

But how did Singapore attract so many high-net worth individuals? When the city-state became independent in 1965, one-half of its population was illiterate. With virtually no natural resources, Singapore pulled itself up by its bootstraps 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 98% of the adult population is now literate.

Unfortunately, that did not make it immune from the pandemic-driven global economic downturn: in 2020, the economy shrank by 3.9%, knocking the nation into recession for the first time in more than a decade. In 2021, Singapore’s economy bounced back with an 8.8% growth, but then the slowdown in China, a top trading partner, derailed the recovery. China’s economic problems hit Singapore’s manufacturing sector—which makes up 21.6% of Singapore’s total GDP—particularly hard. The economy expanded by just 1% in 2023, and is not projected to grow much further than 2% in 2024 and 2025.

2. Ireland🇮🇪

Current International Dollars: 143,304 | Click To View GDP & Economic Data

A nation of just 5 million inhabitants, the Republic of Ireland was one of the hardest hit by the 2008 financial crisis. Following politically difficult reform measures like deep cuts to public-sector wages and restructuring its banking industry, the island nation regained its fiscal health, boosted its employment rates and saw its per capita GDP grow exponentially.

However, context is important. Ireland is one of the world’s largest corporate tax havens, which benefits multinationals far more than it benefits the average Irish person. Halfway through the 2010s, many large US firms—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Meta and Pfizer to name a few—moved their fiscal residence to Ireland to benefit from its low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, one of the most attractive in the developed world. In 2022, these multinationals accounted for over 60% of the total value added to the Irish economy, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office. If Ireland were to adopt the minimum corporate tax rate of 15% proposed by the OECD and already implemented by many countries, it would lose its competitive advantage.

Further, while Irish families are undoubtedly better off than they used to be, the national household per-capita disposable income remains slightly lower than the overall EU average according to data from the OECD. With a considerable gap between the richest and poorest (the top 20% of the population earns almost five times as much as the bottom 20%), most Irish citizens would likely balk at the idea that they are not just rich but the richest in the world.

1. Luxembourg🇱🇺

Current International Dollars: 137,638 | 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 in the country again. Doing so would be a pity: situated at the very heart of Europe, this nation of close to 650,000 has plenty to offer, both to tourists and 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.

While the global financial crisis and pressure from the EU and OECD to reduce banking secrecy may have had little impact on Luxembourg’s economy, the coronavirus outbreak forced many businesses to close and cost workers their jobs. Yet, the country has weathered the pandemic better than most of its European neighbors: its economy rebounded from -0.9% growth in 2020 to over 7% growth in 2021. Unfortunately, due to high interest rates, the war in Ukraine, and a broader deterioration of the economic conditions in the Eurozone, that rebound did not last long: the economy grew by just 1.3% in 2022 and even contracted, by 0.4%, last year.

Still, weak economic growth may not be worth complaining: Luxembourg topped the $100,000 mark in per capita GDP in 2014 and has never looked back ever since.

World’s Richest Countries 2024

Rank Country/Territory GDP-PPP per capita ($)
1 🇱🇺Luxembourg 143,304
2 🇮🇪Ireland 137,638
3 🇸🇬Singapore 133,108
4 🇶🇦Qatar 114,210
5 🇲🇴Macao SAR 98,157
6 🇨🇭Switzerland 89,537
7 🇦🇪United Arab Emirates 88,962
8 🇸🇲San Marino 84,135
9 🇳🇴Norway 82,655
10 🇺🇸United States 80,412
11 🇩🇰Denmark 74,958
12 🇳🇱Netherlands 73,317
13 🇭🇰Hong Kong SAR 72,861
14 🇧🇳Brunei Darussalam 72,610
15 🇹🇼Taiwan 72,485
16 🇮🇸Iceland 69,833
17 🇦🇹Austria 69,069
18 🇸🇦Saudi Arabia 68,453
19 🇦🇩Andorra 68,232
20 🇸🇪Sweden 66,209
21 🇩🇪Germany 66,038
22 🇧🇪Belgium 65,813
23 🇦🇺Australia 64,674
24 🇲🇹Malta 63,481
25 🇬🇾Guyana 61,099
26 🇧🇭Bahrain 60,715
27 🇫🇮Finland 59,869
28 🇨🇦Canada 59,813
29 🇫🇷France 58,765
30 🇬🇧United Kingdom 56,836
31 🇰🇷South Korea 56,709
32 🇮🇱Israel 54,771
33 🇮🇹Italy 54,259
34 🇨🇾Cyprus 53,931
35 🇳🇿New Zealand 53,809
36 🇯🇵Japan 52,120
37 🇰🇼Kuwait 51,765
38 🇸🇮Slovenia 52,641
39 🇦🇼Aruba 51,352
40 🇪🇸Spain 50,472
41 🇱🇹Lithuania 49,245
42 🇨🇿Czech Republic 49,025
43 🇵🇱Poland 45,538
44 🇪🇪Estonia 45,236
45 🇵🇹Portugal 45,227
46 🇧🇸The Bahamas 44,950
47 🇭🇺Hungary 43,601
48 🇵🇭Croatia 42,873
49 🇵🇦Panama 42,738
50 🇸🇰Slovak Republic 42,228
51 🇹🇷Turkey 41,888
52 🇸🇨Seychelles 41,829
53 🇵🇷Puerto Rico 41,682
54 🇷🇴Romania 41,029
55 🇱🇻Latvia 40,892
56 🇬🇷Greece 39,478
57 🇴🇲Oman 39,336
58 🇲🇻Maldives 37,094
59 🇲🇾Malaysia 37,083
60 🇷🇺Russia 35,310
61 🇧🇬Bulgaria 33,780
62 🇰🇿Kazakhstan 32,712
63 🇹🇹Trinidad and Tobago 30,719
64 🇨🇱Chile 29,935
65 🇰🇳St. Kitts and Nevis 29,893
66 🇲🇺Mauritius 29,349
67 🇺🇾Uruguay 28,984
68 🇲🇪Montenegro 28,002
69 🇦🇷Argentina 26,506
70 🇨🇷Costa Rica 26,809
71 🇩🇴Dominican Republic 25,523
72 🇷🇸Serbia 26,074
73 🇦🇬Antigua and Barbuda 25,449
74 🇲🇽Mexico 24,976
75 🇱🇾Libya 24,382
76 🇧🇾Belarus 24,017
77 🇨🇳China 23,309
78 🇹🇭Thailand 22,491
79 🇬🇪Georgia 22,357
80 🇲🇰North Macedonia 21,391
81 🇬🇩Grenada 20,195
82 🇧🇷Brazil 20,079
83 🇮🇷Iran 19,942
84 🇹🇲Turkmenistan 19,939
85 🇦🇲Armenia 19,745
86 🇧🇦Bosnia and Herzegovina 19,634
87 🇦🇱Albania 19,566
88 🇨🇴Colombia 19,482
89 🇧🇼Botswana 19,394
90 🇬🇦Gabon 19,165
91 🇱🇨St. Lucia 18,973
92 🇧🇧Barbados 18,738
93 🇦🇿Azerbaijan 18,694
94 🇬🇶Equatorial Guinea 18,363
95 🇸🇷Suriname 18,311
96 🇻🇨St. Vincent and the Grenadines 17,840
97 🇪🇬Egypt 17,123
98 🇲🇩Moldova 16,916
99 🇫🇯Fiji 15,564
100 🇿🇦South Africa 16,211
101 🇵🇪Peru 15,894
102 🇮🇩Indonesia 15,836
104 🇽🇰Kosovo 15,767
105 🇵🇾Paraguay 15,533
105 🇵🇼Palau 15,170
106 🇲🇳Mongolia 15,088
107 🇩🇲Dominica 14,348
108 🇺🇦Ukraine 14,304
109 🇧🇹Bhutan 14,297
110 🇻🇳Vietnam 14,285
111 🇩🇿Algeria 13,682
112 🇪🇨Ecuador 13,285
113 🇹🇳Tunisia 13,249
114 🇯🇲Jamaica 12,995
115 🇯🇴Jordan 12,809
116 🇸🇿Eswatini 11,859
117 🇮🇶Iraq 11,742
118 🇸🇻El Salvador 11,717
119 🇳🇦Namibia 11,603
120 🇵🇭Philippines 11,326
121 🇳🇷Nauru 11,169
122 🇧🇿Belize 10,939
123 🇬🇹Guatemala 10,595
124 🇲🇦Morocco 10,408
125 🇧🇴Bolivia 10,340
126 🇺🇿Uzbekistan 10,316
127 🇨🇻Cabo Verde 9,909
128 🇱🇦Lao P.D.R. 9,787
129 🇮🇳India 9,183
130 🇻🇪Bangladesh 8,673
131 🇻🇪Venezuela 7,985
132 🇳🇮Nicaragua 7,642
133 🇲🇷Mauritania 7,542
134 🇭🇳Honduras 7,163
135 🇹🇴Tonga 7,127
136 🇦🇴Angola 7,077
137 🇩🇯Djibouti 6,985
138 🇨🇮Côte d’Ivoire 6,960
139 🇬🇭Ghana 6,905
140 🇵🇰Pakistan 6,774
141 🇵🇸West Bank and Gaza 6,642
142 🇰🇪Kenya 6,577
143 🇼🇸Samoa 6,544
144 🇰🇬Kyrgyz Republic 6,438
145 🇳🇬Nigeria 6,148
146 🇰🇭Cambodia 6,087
147 🇲🇭Marshall Islands 5,823
148 🇹🇻Tuvalu 5,766
149 🇨🇬Republic of the Congo 5,552
150 🇹🇯Tajikistan 5,361
151 🇲🇲Myanmar 5,124
152 🇳🇵Nepal 5,934
153 🇨🇲Cameroon 4,661
154 🇸🇳Senegal 4,325
155 🇧🇯Benin 4,305
156 🇸🇹São Tomé and Príncipe 4,147
157 🇿🇲Zambia 4,068
158 🇫🇲Micronesia 3,922
159 🇹🇱Timor-Leste 3,747
160 🇪🇹Ethiopia 3,719
161 🇸🇩Sudan 3,605
162 🇹🇿Tanzania 3,595
163 🇰🇲Comoros 3,464
164 🇵🇬Papua New Guinea 3,403
165 🇬🇳Guinea 3,088
166 🇱🇸Lesotho 3,235
167 🇺🇬Uganda 3,222
168 🇭🇹Haiti 3,186
169 🇷🇼Rwanda 3,137
170 🇬🇼Guinea-Bissau 3,088
171 🇻🇺Vanuatu 2,940
172 🇬🇲The Gambia 2,837
173 🇹🇬Togo 2,768
174 🇬🇲Zimbabwe 2,750
175 🇻🇺Burkina Faso 2,683
176 🇲🇱Mali 2,639
177 🇸🇧Solomon Islands 2,683
178 🇰🇮Kiribati 2,381
179 🇸🇱Sierra Leone 2,097
180 🇾🇪Yemen 2,053
181 🇸🇴Somalia 1,998
182 🇲🇬Madagascar 1,907
183 🇹🇩Chad 1,807
184 🇱🇷Liberia 1,789
185 🇲🇼Malawi 1,668
186 🇲🇿Mozambique 1,584
187 🇳🇪Niger 1,579
188 🇨🇩Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,510
189 🇨🇫Central African Republic 1,109
190 🇧🇮Burundi 890
191 🇸🇸South Sudan 476
🇦🇫Afghanistan
🇪🇷Eritrea
🇱🇧Lebanon
🇱🇰Sri Lanka
🇸🇾Syria
N.A.

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook October 2023. Values are expressed in current international dollars, reflecting the corresponding exchange rates and PPP adjustments.


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