Qatar is set to be knocked off its perch as the richest country in the world by the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.
For several years the gas rich Gulf state held the envious status of the richest country in the world. Its per capita GDP was around $127,600 a year ago, according to the International Monetary Fund and with Luxembourg quite a way off in second place, with $104,003, Qatar’s status seemed to have been safe.
However the global casino hub of Macau has reached parity with Qatar’s GDP per capita and is predicted to outstrip Qatar by 2020, with $143,116 per capita GDP, according to projections from the IMF. The prediction will put Macau ahead of the current No. 1 Qatar, which will reach $139,151 in the same timeframe.
A former Portuguese outpost on the southern tip of China, Macau has become a gambling capital since returning to Chinese control almost two decades ago.
It is the only place in China where casinos are legal, turning it into a magnet for high-rollers from the mainland. Macau’s gross domestic product has more than tripled from about $34,500 per capita in 2001, the IMF data shows.
The wealth gap between the two places is also expected to widen beyond 2020, with Macau’s GDP per capita set to reach $172,681 by 2023, according to data compiled from the April edition of the IMF’s Global Economic Outlook database. Qatar’s, meanwhile, will grow to just $158,117.
Small developed countries or regions are more likely to rank top of world rich lists when there are fewer people to divide the wealth. The per capita calculation works in favour of Macau, whereas the oil-rich nation of Qatar has a population of 2.57 million.
Qatar has also endured a period of sluggish economic growth as a result of sanctions imposed by its Gulf neighbours; Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Doha’s economy has recovered but its ability to maintain the level of growth seen in past is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future under the current climate.