The Trillionaires Club

As of 1990, only five countries in the world had a GDP in excess of $1 trillion — the United States, Japan, Germany, the Soviet Union and France. By 2000, this club had nine members. Now, even the world’s 17th largest economy has an annual GDP of $1 trillion. Can you name that country?

A. India
B. Indonesia
C. Australia
D. Turkey

A. India is not correct.

India’s economy first passed the $1 trillion mark in 1994. By 2012, its GDP amounted to $4.8 trillion, which makes it the world’s third-largest economy, according to World Bank data. (All GDP data here are measured on a purchasing power basis, to ensure international comparability.)

At $3,876, India’s per capita GDP has risen by a factor of nearly four since 1994, when per capita GDP was $1,067. Still, that is the lowest level among the 20 largest economies on earth.

B. Indonesia is not correct.

Indonesia, the world’s 16th-largest economy, currently has a per capita income of $4,956. That is about 20% larger than India’s per capita GDP. Indonesia’s economy first crossed the $1 trillion mark in 2010. As of 2012, its GDP was $1.2 trillion.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country. With 247 million people, it is nearly four-fifths as large as the United States. This underscores the country’s future growth potential, provided it can meet its many infrastructure challenges. These are especially prominent in the country’s capital, Jakarta.

The world’s fifth-most-populous country, Brazil, first saw its annual economic output exceed $1 trillion in 1995, a decade and a half ahead of India. By 2012, Brazil’s GDP amounted to $2.4 trillion.

Russia reached the $1 trillion level in 2001 — for the second time in its history. It had previously crossed that threshold in the 1980s, when it was part of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s growth slowed dramatically in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union as old, inefficient businesses closed without government support. The economy was also slowed by the Russia debt crisis in 1998.

Over the past decade, the Russian economy has grown rapidly on the basis of strong energy exports.

C. Australia is correct.

With fewer than 23 million people, Australia is the world’s 51st-largest country in terms of population. In geographic terms, however, it is the world’s sixth-largest.

Australia’s economy has just crossed the $1 trillion mark, largely on the basis of strong exports to China. Per capita GDP in the world’s 17th-largest economy reached $44,598 in 2012, up almost 70% from $26,272 in 2000.

The next large economy moving toward the $1 trillion level is Poland. The 39 million Poles currently generate a GDP of $854 billion. Provided the country’s economy continues to grow at its current rate of 1.9%, Eastern Europe’s largest economy will pass the $1 trillion mark within the next decade.

D. Turkey is not correct.

Turkey’s economy passed the $1 trillion level back in 2008. With a GDP of nearly $1.4 trillion in 2012, Poland has the world’s 15th-largest economy — roughly in line with its population rank (18th).

The Turkish economy has grown strongly ever since 2001, when the country suffered a severe banking and financial crisis. A decade later, in 2011, Turkey had the fastest growing economy in Europe, at 8.5%.

However, Turkey’s growth decelerated sharply, slowing to 2.2% in 2012. Erratic policy pronouncements by the country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, make it unlikely that the country will resume its higher rate of growth anytime soon.

Neighboring Iran’s economy, at $838 billion in 2009 (the last year for which the World Bank has comparable data) was the world’s 18th-largest at that time. The economy has teetered on the brink of crisis ever since a Western embargo on Iranian oil exports went into effect in July 2012.

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