Macau set to replace Qatar as richest economy

The Cotai Strip of gaming resorts in Macau on May 15, 2018.
The Cotai Strip of gaming resorts in Macau on May 15, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Qatar is on track to lose its status as the richest place in the world to the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

The global casino hub's economy will reach the equivalent of about US$143,116 (S$196,282) per person by 2020, according to projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

That will put Macau ahead of the current No. 1 Qatar, which will reach US$139,151 in the same time frame.

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 (GDP) has more than tripled from about US$34,500 per capita in 2001, the IMF data shows.

Financial hub Singapore's GDP per capita is expected to top six digits by next year and is on track to grow to about US$117,535 by 2023, while Hong Kong - across the water from Macau - will touch almost US$80,000 by that time, the IMF projections show.

The wealth gap between the two places is also expected to widen beyond 2020, with Macau's GDP per capita set to reach about US$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 US$158,117.

Elsewhere, financial hub Singapore's GDP per capita is expected to top six digits by next year and is on track to grow to about US$117,535 by 2023, while Hong Kong - across the water from Macau - will touch almost US$80,000 by that time, the IMF projections show.

Three European countries - Luxembourg, Ireland, and Norway - made the top 10 places expected to be the world's wealthiest by 2020, while the US came in at No. 12.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Macau set to replace Qatar as richest economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe