Where is the global equivalent of 110th street
, where a land boundary separates two countries with the greatest
disparity in wealth between them?
An effective measure of wealth is Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which values a country's economy according
to the relative value of the goods and services. This is preferable to calculating the total value of goods
and services produced in a year (Gross Domestic Product (GDP)), since the currency of the country that you would
measure is susceptible to fluctuations. PPP is by no means perfect since it does not take into account
the quality of goods produced or what is required to achieve adequate welfare in different countries, but it
still helps you get a good idea of who is wealthy and who isn't.
On the basis of published PPP per capita statistics for 1999, the following pairs of countries with land
borders have the greatest chasm of economic development between them:
1. Oman ($13,356) and Yemen ($806) - (16.6 times wealthier)
2. Saudi Arabia ($10,815) and Yemen ($806) - (13.4 times wealthier)
3. Libya ($7570) and Sudan ($664) - (11.4 times wealthier)
4. South Africa ($8908) and Mozambique ($861) - (10.3 times wealthier)
5. Libya ($7570) and Niger ($753) - (10.1 times wealthier)
Note that no PPP data exists for some less than transparent economies like Afghanistan and North Korea, so they
have not been included above. Also not included in this list are international territories, such as Ceuta,
American Samoa, Hong Kong and French Guyana.
It is interesting to compare inequity where we believe the frontiers of the first world extend. Looking over the
Rio Grande, Mexico's $8297 per capita is about 3.8 times smaller than America's $31,872. There is slightly
more parity over where the Iron Curtain once was laid: Finns ($23,096) are 3.1 times better off than Russians
($7,387), and Germans ($23,742) are 2.8 times richer than Poles ($8,450). Big gaps however exist around the
Balkans - Greece's PPP per capita is 4.8 times greater than that for Albania, while war-torn Bosnia is a
staggering 6.1 times poorer than neighbour Croatia, which in turn is 3.4 times poorer than Austria. Outside Europe, the most significant differences are between
Iraq and oil-rich Kuwait (5.4 times), Israel and Egypt (5.4 times) and Myanmar and Thailand (6.0 times).
Obviously there will be inequity if one country in a pair is especially lucky (e.g.: it exports oil), or especially unlucky (e.g.: it suffers a civil war). Countries with similar economic profiles are likely to share similar levels of economic development, although dissimilar countries can still be reasonably equal if they exchange with each other their comparative advantages.
ref: The Statesman's Yearbook, 2003