by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

Poorest nation, richest nation (Issue III+IV/2018)


Only a few decades ago, Bedouins with their animals were still traveling through the desert in Qatar. Today it is the richest country in the world, a place where people reside in villas and skyscrapers. Doha shows what money can do, with its prestigious sports stadiums, magnificent museums and libraries. Qatar owes its wealth to its huge deposits of oil and natural gas. The ruler of the country, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is smart enough to let his people share in this fortune. If you have a Qatari passport, you're fine. Yet, that is a select group, which only makes up about 12 percent of the 2.8 million people who live in Qatar. 

The remainder are migrant workers who do work which no Qatari wants to undertake: lugging stones across construction sites or cleaning private homes, often poorly paid and in inhuman conditions - or both. This magazine is about inequality. Based on per capita income, the International Monetary Fund annually measures the wealth of all countries worldwide. At the bottom of the scale, at number 187, is the Central African Republic (CAR). Converted to euros, the average annual income of each of its 4.6 million inhabitants is 580 euros. There are only 400 kilometres of paved roads in the country, which is three times the size of Germany. The CAR is among the nations considered hopeless by the international community: rebel militias control the country, child soldiers fight in civil wars, peace is not foreseeable and the people are poor. And this despite the fact that countless treasures are hidden beneath this wooded region in the heart of Africa, especially gold and rough diamonds. But this wealth ends up profiting warlords and corrupt civil servants, as well as companies from France, its former colonial power.

At first glance, an authoritarian Arab monarchy and an African failed state have little in common. For this issue, we asked people in the poorest and richest countries in the world how they are doing as well as researching why it is that some on this globe have too much while others have too little.

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Where fifty years ago Bedouins roamed the desert, today skyscrapers tower into the sky. In Qatar, extremes are the norm, with wealth next to bitter poverty, modernity alongside tradition