The Middle East, a region synonymous with wealth, attracts tourists globally with its sumptuous cuisine, opulent gold souks, and a penchant for luxury. At its economic heart lies the huge reserves of oil, a commodity that has shaped the destinies of its nations.
The region’s countries lead as top oil exporters, with the ‘black gold’ enriching their economies to rank them among the world’s affluent. A 2022 survey unveils the ten richest countries of the Middle East, spotlighting the economic giants of an area often hailed for its financial prowess.
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The 10 richest countries in the Middle East
The following are the richest countries in the Middle East:
In the heart of the Middle East, Lebanon shines with a GDP per capita of $6,168. Sandwiched between Syria and Israel, this nation champions a liberal economy, thriving on the perfect mobility of capital and labor. The service and banking sectors are the pillars of its economy, contributing a substantial 70% to the GDP.
Industrialization is also significant, adding 20%, while agriculture accounts for the remaining 10%. Beirut, its capital, is the economic engine fueled by the strategic Port of Beirut, vital since World War II for re-exporting goods. Tourism, driven by Lebanon’s stunning landscapes and historical heritage, further bolsters its economy.
Turkey, straddling the bridge between Asia and Europe, boasts a GDP per capita of $12,600. The Republic of Turkiye, positioned on the Anatolian Peninsula, is acknowledged by the IMF as an emerging market economy. Recognized as a newly industrialized country, Turkey’s economy has weathered the impacts of the pandemic, still securing the 50th rank among the wealthiest nations globally by the World Bank.
The nation has seen its economic reform slow, causing reliance on the construction sector, yet it has managed to elevate average income and employment, maintaining an upper-middle-income status.
Oman, with a GDP per capita of $15,150, tells a story of wealth etched in oil. Despite having the least reserves in the region, oil discovery in 1964 and subsequent exports from 1967 have cemented Oman’s economic stature. Oil revenue is a cornerstone, comprising 40% of GDP and 75% of government income.
Facing depleting reserves, Oman is strategically pivoting towards natural gas, diversifying its economy, and prioritizing the employment of its citizens—a visionary approach setting it apart in the Middle Eastern economic landscape.
At the heart of the Middle East’s economic boom, Bahrain boasts a GDP per capita of $21,000. As the fifth richest country in the region and the 23rd globally, its economic prosperity stems from tourism, aluminum, and its energy sector.
The Bahraini Dinar’s high value underscores the country’s fiscal strength. Petroleum and natural gas, contributing to 60% of revenue, have led Bahrain to diversify its economy diligently, ensuring stability even with finite oil reserves.
6. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a GDP per capita of $21,287. As a pivotal OPEC member, the kingdom contributes significantly to the global oil supply.
With limitless oil reserves to last decades, Saudi Arabia commands respect on the international stage. Yet, with foresight, the nation is steering towards economic diversification, as outlined in its Vision 2030, reducing dependency on oil and fostering industrial growth through incentives.
Cyprus is an island nation cradled by the Mediterranean. It is recognized as a high-income economy with a GDP per capita of $32,200. Its economy’s resilience is remarkable, having rebounded from the 2013 banking crisis and the 2020 pandemic.
The service sector, including tourism and maritime transport, is the economy’s mainstay, contributing a dominant 83% to the GDP. Cyprus’ economic narrative is diverse and adaptable, with a robust international business presence bolstering its tertiary sector.
Kuwait’s wealth, with a GDP per capita of $33,000, stems from its rich crude oil reserves. Ranking high globally, its economy benefits from about 102 billion barrels of oil, 6% of the world’s total. Oil is central to its wealth, forming half of the GDP and 90% of government revenue.
Despite oil price fluctuations, Kuwait’s strategy includes boosting oil production and investing 10% of annual revenue as a buffer against market instability. Yet, diversification efforts face hurdles from political uncertainty and private sector contract delays.
Israel stands out in the Middle East with a GDP per capita of $35,766. It is fueled by a dynamic free market economy. Home to a powerful military and modern welfare system, Israel excels in high-tech industries, housing the highest number of startups after the USA.
Industrial manufacturing and technology are economic pillars alongside diamond trade. With minimal natural resources, Israel invests heavily in education and research, driving growth through innovation and production.
2. United Arab Emirates
Luxury and opulence define the United Arab Emirates, which boasts a GDP per capita of $41,800. This federation of seven emirates transformed from pearl trading to a wealthy oil economy in the mid-20th century.
Now, with diminishing oil reserves, the UAE thrives on tourism, especially in Dubai, attracting millions of visitors. Tourism contributes significantly to the GDP, complemented by diverse populations, tax-free incomes, and iconic architecture like the towering Burj Khalifa.
Qatar, with an astounding GDP per capita of $62,100, tops the Middle East’s wealth chart. Renowned globally for affluence, the country has a minuscule unemployment rate and vast hydrocarbon reserves relative to its population. Beyond oil and gas, luxury tourism shapes its economy.
Despite the pandemic’s impact, Qatar’s economy has shown remarkable resilience, growing by 1.5% in the last year, demonstrating its enduring economic strength.
The Middle East’s wealth is as diverse as its culture and history. From the oil-rich sands of Kuwait and the resilient economy of Israel to the luxury hubs of the UAE and Qatar’s unparalleled affluence, these nations exemplify the region’s economic dynamism.
While oil has been the traditional cornerstone of wealth, the richest countries of the middle east are navigating through changing global energy landscapes with innovative diversification strategies.