Special Report

The Richest Countries in the World

Alesund, Norway (village)
Source: Thinkstock

5. Norway
> GNI per capita: $67,614.35
> 2015 GDP: $357.05 billion
> Population: 5,195,921
> Life expectancy: 81.8 years at birth

The largest holder of natural gas and crude oil reserves in Europe, Norway is the wealthiest Nordic country and the fifth wealthiest of any nation worldwide. Extracted from the North Sea, most of Norway’s crude oil and natural gas is sold to the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands. State-owned Statoil largely controls Norway’s oil trade, which accounts for an estimated 40% of the country’s export revenue. As the price of oil fell over the past several years, Norway’s oil revenues fell accordingly. Oil revenue may continue to fall regardless of commodity prices in the coming years, however, as the North Sea’s fields are dwindling.

While Norway’s national oil company is similar to that of oil-rich Arab nations, the country’s high taxes and redistribution of wealth are more in line with the social policies of its Scandinavian neighbors. According to the Gini index, Norway has the third most equal distribution of wealth of any country.


4. Kuwait
> GNI per capita: $76,075.21
> 2015 GDP: $289.93 billion
> Population: 3,892,115
> Life expectancy: 74.6 years at birth

The small, densely populated country of Kuwait is heavily dependent on its natural resources — which have so far also made residents extraordinarily wealthy. The Kuwaiti oil and gas sector accounts for approximately 60% of the economy and nearly all of its export revenue. The country’s gross national income per capita of $76,075 exceeds that of all but three countries.

Due largely to the recent global drop in oil prices, Kuwait, like a number of other Middle Eastern nations, has taken steps to reduce its oil dependency. Due to economic uncertainty tied to falling oil prices, the Kuwaiti government dissolved its parliament in October, triggering a new election cycle.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Singapore
> GNI per capita: $77,537.90
> 2015 GDP: $472.59 billion
> Population: 5,535,002
> Life expectancy: 82.6 years at birth

Situated on the southern tip of Malaysia and the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, through which approximately 40% of the world’s maritime cargo is shipped, Singapore is one of the most active trade economies on the globe. The Port of Singapore is the second busiest in the world. Roughly two-thirds of the Southeast Asian nation’s exports, which include electronic equipment, machines, petroleum, and much more, were imported from another country, as opposed to being produced locally. The country exports 1.7 times the value of its GDP and imports 1.5 times its GDP value in a near-perfect trade balance, making it the second-most trade dependent nation.

With a GNI of $77,538 per capita, Singapore citizens are the third wealthiest in the world. The average Singaporean can expect to live for more than 82 years, the sixth highest life expectancy worldwide.

Macao SAR, China
Source: Thinkstock

2. Macao SAR, China
> GNI per capita: $114,445.17
> 2015 GDP: $65.52 billion
> Population: 587,606
> Life expectancy: 80.6 years at birth

Known as the gambling capital of Asia, more than 40% of Macao’s GDP is generated by its tourism industry. In January 2015, the average tourist in Macao spent about $1,200 gambling, nearly twice the average amount a gambler spends in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to gambling, Macao has an active trade economy. The total value of the country’s exports amounts to 78% of the Macao GDP, one of the highest trade ratios in the world. Without a wealth of natural resources, Macao imports many of its basic goods — water, refined petroleum, and consumer electronics — from China.

Macao’s dependence on foreign tourism has made it particularly vulnerable to the slowdown in economic growth in China. Largely due to dwindling gambling revenue, Macao’s GDP shrank by 20.3% in 2015 — a larger contraction than in any other country. Declining gambling revenue was also partly due to an anti-corruption campaign led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Doha Skyline, Qatar
Source: Thinkstock

1. Qatar
> GNI per capita: $129,076.58
> 2015 GDP: $321.69 billion
> Population: 2,235,355
> Life expectancy: 78.6 years at birth

Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world. The nation’s GNI per capita of $129,077 dwarfs that of every nation. Only Macao, a special administrative region of China, comes close with a six-figure GNI per capita. Qatar’s wealth is due primarily to its oil and gas resources. The Middle Eastern nation is one of the world’s top exporters of petroleum and natural gas. Unlike most countries worldwide, the global economic downturn did not erode Qatar’s financial condition — Qatar maintained a budget surplus from 2009 through 2014.

Recent oil price drops are affecting the country however. Falling oil prices have resulted in massive revenue declines in the oil-rich nation. The recently approved national budget for 2016 includes large spending cuts in what officials are expecting to be Qatar’s first budget shortfall in 15 years.