Author: Valentina Pasquali
Project Coordinator: Denise Bedell

There are two standard methods of measuring the wealth of countries and how rich or poor its inhabitants are. The measure most often used is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which represents the size of a country’s economy. A refinement of this is per-capita GDP, which is a measure of the average welfare and affluence, or poverty, of residents of a country. However, GDP and per-capita GDP are less useful when comparing economies across national boundaries – which one must do to determine the poorest countries in the world – because GDP is expressed in a country’s local currency.

The measure that most economists prefer is GDP at purchasing power parity. GDP (PPP) compares generalized differences in living standards on the whole between nations because PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of countries, rather than using just exchange rates, which may distort the real differences in income.

The figures below include data and forecasts for the wealth of countries and regions from 2009 to 2013. Source: the IMF (unless otherwise specified).

The Richest and Poorest Countries in The World, 2013 (Estimates - Data in Current International Dollar)

Gross domestic product (GDP) based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita
Darkest grey: highest GDP per capita (PPP)
Medium grey: medium-high GDP per capita (PPP)
Light grey: medium-low GDP per capita (PPP)
Lightest grey: lowest GDP per capita (PPP)

The figures below include data and forecasts for the wealth of countries and regions from 2009 to 2013. Source: the IMF (unless otherwise specified).

The World's Poorest Regions, Based on Gross Domestic Product  (PPP) Per Capita 2009-2013

Click on the column heading to sort the table.

The figures below include data and forecasts for the wealth of countries and regions from 2009 to 2013. Source: the IMF (unless otherwise specified).

The World's Poorest Countries, Based on Gross Domestic Product (PPP) Per Capita 2009-2013

Click on the column heading to sort the table.

DEFINITIONS:

GDP (gross domestic product) is the sum of the gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

GDP PPP (purchasing power parity) is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as a U.S. dollar has in the United States. Purchasing power parities (PPPs) are the rates of currency conversion that eliminate the differences in price levels between countries.

GDP (PPP) per capita is GDP on a purchasing power parity basis divided by population. Please note: Whereas PPP estimates for OECD countries are quite reliable, PPP estimates for developing countries are often rough approximations.

GNI (gross national income) is gross domestic product (GDP) plus net receipts of primary income (employee compensation and investment income) from abroad. GDP is the sum of value added by all resident producers plus any product taxes (less subsidies) not included in the valuation of output.

GNI per capita is gross national income divided by mid-year population.

PPP GNI is gross national income converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GNI as a U.S. dollar has in the United States.

Definitions from the World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and IMF.

BEYOND GDP

 

It is important to notice that GDP is not a perfect measure to describe the well-being and quality of life of populations, and, in fact, there are other indexes that take into account other variables such as life expectancy, income distribution, literacy, etc., such as the UN Human Development Index and the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare. In fact, GDP is often considered imperfect even to measure overall economic strength; see a report released in 2009 by a commission chaired by Nobel Prize-winning economists Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz and Professor Amartya Sen, and by Professor Jean-Paul Fitoussi [DOWNLOAD PDF]
See also: http://www.beyond-gdp.eu/

WEALTH DISTRIBUTION MAP
For a wealth distribution map, with historical data and current data, see: http://www.gfmag.com/tools/global-database/economic-data/11944-wealth distribution-income-inequality.html
A background on Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP) from the World Bank - World Development Indicators:

Comparable measures of economic activity, wealth and living standards are useful for many purposes. Foreign investors, traders, and potential immigrants want to know an economy’s market size, productivity and prices. The globalization of markets for goods, services, finance, labor and ideas reinforces the interdependence of economies and the need to measure them on a common scale. Countries cannot share responsibilities for global public goods—the environment, security, development assistance and global governance—without meaningful assessments of the real size of their economies and the wealth of their people.

But comparing the real size of economies is not easy. Even in an integrated global economy, large differences in the costs of goods and services persist. Exchange rates can be used to convert values in one currency to another, but since they do not fully reflect differences in price levels, they cannot measure the real volume of output. Exchange rates are determined by the demand for and supply of currencies used in international transactions, ignoring domestic economic sectors where prices are set in relative isolation from the rest of the world—thus the familiar experience of international travelers, who discover that they can buy more, or less, of the same goods in different countries when converting their money using the prevailing exchange rates.

To measure the real size of the world’s economy and to compare costs of living across coun­tries, we need to adjust for differences in purchasing power. Finding a way to adjust for those differences has given rise to the efforts to measure purchasing power parities (PPPs), which convert local currencies to a common currency, such as the U.S. dollar. Purchasing power parities are needed because similar goods and services have widely varying prices across countries when converted to a common currency using market exchange rates. Differences are greatest in sectors not commonly traded in­ternationally, such as housing, construction and health and education services. Price differences are smaller for widely traded products, such as machinery and equipment, af­ter allowing for taxes, distributor margins and transport costs. PPPs include the prices of tradable and nontradable goods, us­ing weights that reflect their relative importance in total GDP.

Since 1970 the International Comparison Program (ICP) has conducted eight rounds of PPP estimates for the major components of countries’ gross domestic product (GDP)—the most recent for 2005. High-income countries regularly take part in such programs, but 2005 was the first time since 1993 that comprehensive price surveys were carried out in developing economies. An unprecedented number, 101, took part. These new PPPs provide a better and more complete view of the world economy.

In 2005 the ICP report brought together the results of two separate PPP programs. The first is the global ICP program conducted by the ICP Global Office within the World Bank. The program was organized in five geographic areas: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and Western Asia. In parallel, the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducted its 2005 PPP program that included 46 countries. Eurostat covered 37 countries—the 25 EU member states, the EFTA countries and other European countries. The OECD part of the program included nine other countries.

The ICP Global Office has combined the results from each of the five regions with those from the OECD/Eurostat PPP Program into an overall global comparison.

Please note: The IMF is not a primary source for purchasing power parity (PPP) data. For primary source information, please refer to one of the following sources: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank, Eurostat.

 

Central and Eastern Europe

Composed of 14 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.

Commonwealth of Independent States
Composed of 11 CIS countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Georgia and Mongolia, which are not members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, are included in this group for reasons of geography and similarities in economic structure.

Developing Asia

Composed of 26 countries: Republic of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos), Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tonga, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Western Hemisphere

Composed of 32 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Middle East

Composed of 14 countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates and Republic of Yemen.

Emerging and Developing Economies

Composed of 149 countries: Republic of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos), Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Republic of Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Euro Area

Composed of 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain.

East Asia and Pacific

Composed of 22 countries: Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Dem. Rep. Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos), Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, American Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tonga, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

South Asia

Composed of 8 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Composed of 45 countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe