Top 10 Richest Countries in the World 2019

But what do we mean when we say a country is “rich,” especially in an era of growing  between the rich and everyone else?  While gross domestic product (GD) 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.

2Macao SAR122,201
5Brunei Darussalam83,777
8United Arab Emirates70,474
10Hong Kong SAR66,517

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