According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Qatar has the wealthiest overall population based on per capita income.
Using GDP Per Capita to Determine the Wealth of a Nation
Conventionally, there are two methods in which the wealth of a nation is defined. The approach most preferred by economists takes into consideration how wealthy the average resident of a country is. This represents the per capita income data point, which is the gross domestic product (GDP) per person. To standardize the information across nations, the GDP per capita is viewed on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis in current international dollars. PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of the countries.
Based on that criteria, the richest nation in the world is Qatar, with a per capita GDP (PPP) of $128,702 in 2018 according to the IMF.
Qatar has a population of 2.69 million people, based on data for January 2018, though there are only around approximately 313,000 actual citizens. The remainder of the population is comprised of migrant workers and represents the highest ratio of migrants to citizens in the world. Qatar remains a monarchy ruled by the Al Thani family.
Qatar's economy is heavily geared to oil. Qatar's natural gas and oil industry fuels more than half of the country’s GDP, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The nation is the global leader in liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) exports and boasts more than 25,244 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. The Persian Gulf Emirate is pushing to diversify its economy, investing in the construction sector and developing its finance and tourism industries. Supporting this approach, Qatar is building nine stadiums, a new metro and rail system, new roads and is creating a city for 200,000 people before hosting the FIFA World Cup.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to have been awarded the FIFA World Cup, with the tournament taking place in the nation in 2022. The country has also used its wealth to buy assets around the world, often through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). Acquisitions have included the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team in France and the Harrods department store in the U.K.
Another Way to Measure Wealth
The other method of representing a nation’s wealth simply measures the total GDP of a country, representing the size of its economy. Based on this criteria, China would come out as the wealthiest country in the world. However, given that China also has the largest population in the world, the per capita wealth figure is significantly impacted. The 2018 GDP per capita (PPP) figure from IMF was only $10,090 for China in comparison to $136,727 for Qatar.
(For related reading, see "7 of the Richest Dictators in History.")