Forbes has published their list of the top 10 richest countries in 2012. The results are based on each country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at purchasing power parity per capita, the value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given year.
“This is, essentially, the only way we have to compare GDPs across countries,” notes Gian Luca Clementi, an associate professor of economics at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. “It’s the most accepted data.” Still, he explains, “The numbers must be taken with a grain of salt.” That’s because there are a host of issues that can make any GDP comparisons misleading, including how the quality of goods varies from country to country,”, he claims.
“Also, in some countries, the wealth is equally distributed, while in others it’s very unequally distributed,” Clementi states. “In Qatar, for example, the way it’s distributed is very unequal, and much of the population is actually very poor. The GDP is high because of oil revenues. And, if I were to use the GDP as an indicator of how well a country will do in the future, in Qatar what will matter is how well they actually invest it.”
The World’s Top 10 are as follows
10. Netherlands: Average income per capita: 40,973 dollars a year. The Netherlands is one of the world’s 10 leading exporting countries. Its location gives it great access to the rest of Europe, most importantly the United Kingdom and Germany.
9. Switzerland: Average income per capita: 41,950 dollars a year. Switzerland has a stable, wealthy, and high-tech economy. Much of the nation’s wealth is based on its banking sector.
8. Hong Kong: Average income per capita: 45,944 dollars a year. Made up of Chinese and Western influences, Hong Kong has moved away from manufacturing and is now services-based. As one of the world’s leading international financial centers, Hong Kong is categorized by low taxation and free trade.
7. U.S.A.: Average income per capita: 46,860 dollars a year. The United States’ economy is fuelled by a well-developed infrastructure, plentiful natural resources, and high efficiency. It has a truly unmatched global economic reach. However, the 2008 global recession hit the United States particularly hard.
6. United Arab Emirates: Average income per capita: 47,439 dollars a year. Before oil was discovered in the 1950s the UAE’s economy was reliant on fishing and a weakening pearling industry. Since the discovery of oil UAE has been completely transformed and is now one of the most important economic centers in the Middle East. The country was hit badly by the global financial crisis. The construction industry and property market slowed drastically. However the tourism, trade, and retail sectors kept the economy going.
5. Brunei: Average income per capita: 48,333 dollars a year. Brunei has extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. This industry accounts for 90% of the nation’s GDP. Around 167,000 barrels of oil are produced every day in Brunei
4. Norway: Average income per capita: 51,959 dollars a year. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of Norway’s exports. The country has in large offshore oil and gas deposits discovered in the late 1960s. An additional 3 billion barrels were discovered off the coast of Norway in 2010.
3. Singapore: Average income per capita: 56,694 dollars a year. The country flourishes on manufacturing, technology, and being a finance hub.
2. Luxembourg: Average income per capita: 81,466 dollars a year. The country became a financial hub in the second half of the 20th century, partly thanks to stringent banking secrecy laws that earned it the status of a tax haven.
1. Qatar: Average income per capita: 88,222 dollars a year. This figure is nearly double the United States’ income levels. Once one of the poorest states in the Middle East, Qatar was transformed by its natural gas and oil reserves. Today it is the richest country in the world.