Savings essentially means the difference between an individual’s income and spending. Gross national savings include not just residents’ household savings but those of the nation’s businesses and governments. A country’s national savings rate is represented as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP). The majority of the countries with the highest savings rates fits in to one of two broad categories: either they are “crude” economies, with reserves of oil and gas, or they belong to the club of emerging economies from the East. The graph below shows the top ten countries from a total of 170, chosen for their average national savings rate for the five-year period from 2010-2014.
Qatar tops the list with a national savings rate of 57.63 percent. After occupying the seventh spot in 2010 (48 percent), it moved to number one in 2011 (60 percent) and has since continued as the top savings country. Qatar has abundant oil and gas reserves; according to CIA Factbook, Qatar has 13 percent of the world proved reserves of natural gas — the third largest in the world. The country has a nominal GDP of $212.03 billion (rank: 49) and boasts the highest per capita GDP purchasing-power-parity (PPP) in the world, $144,426, with an unemployment rate below one percent.
Kuwait is primarily a “crude” driven economy. The small but wealthy nation has more than six percent of the world’s crude oil reserves. The country has ranked second since 2012 with an average savings of 55.05 percent of GDP in the last five-year period (2010-14). Kuwait has a nominal GDP of $179.33 billion (rank: 57) and GDP per capita (PPP) of $70,992. According to CIA statistics, around 60 percent of the labor force in the country is comprised of non-Kuwaitis.
People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria has a national savings rate of 54.31 percent of the GDP. Exports of hydrocarbons play an important role in the $227.8 billion (rank: 47) Algerian economy. Hydrocarbon exports have given the economy macroeconomic stability as well as an opportunity to build up its foreign exchange reserves. The country is rich in natural gas and oil reserves and has a very low external debt (two percent of GDP) and a moderate per capita GDP of $14,256.
4. Equatorial Guinea
The country of Equatorial Guinea has an average savings rate of 52.2 percent. Though the country is one of the smallest in the African continent, it is among the fastest growing economies in the region due to its hydrocarbon production, oil and gas reserves, and mineral resources (gold, diamonds and base metals). The country has a nominal GDP of $15.39 billion (rank: 119) and GDP per capita (PPP) of $32,577.
China is the second largest economy in terms of its nominal GDP of $10.35 trillion, and the largest in terms of its GDP (PPP) of $17.63 trillion. China’s huge population of 1.3 billion pulls down its per capita GDP (PPP) to $12,893. Mainland China is also the only “trillion-dollar” economy among the countries with the highest national savings rates. The economy has maintained an average savings rate of 50.35 percent over the five year time period.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, also known as Persia, is the second largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The country has large reserves of natural gas (world ranking: second) and crude oil (world ranking: fourth) and has a strong hydrocarbon sector. Rising unemployment is one of the major concerns for this economy, which has a GDP of $402.7 billion (rank: 30) and a GDP per capita (PPP) of $16,463. The country has an average savings rate of 49.61 percent of GDP.
Singapore, an island country in Southeast Asia, has established itself as a well-known financial center. It is one of the Four Asian Tigers, with a $307.08 billion economy. Singapore has a sound financial services sector as well as a strong industrial base, especially in electronics, petroleum refining and chemicals. The country has the third highest ($81,345) per capita GDP (PPP) in the world. The average national savings rate as a percentage of GDP is 48.74 percent.
8. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is an important member of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with the second largest proven crude oil reserves within the cartel (22 percent) and 16 percent of the world’s reserves. This makes the $777.87 billion Saudi Arabian economy (rank: 19) primarily oil driven. Approximately 80 percent of the labor force in the country is made up of non-nationals. The government is working on establishing six cities of the country to attract foreign investment as well as planning huge spending on economic development. (Related reading, see: Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah’s Death and Oil’s Fall.)
The Republic of Azerbaijan has an average national savings rate of 43.39 percent of GDP. The $77.91 billion economy (rank: 65) has been fueled through oil exports, and part of the revenue earned has been channeled toward infrastructure projects and other government spending, helping to elevate the living standard of its people. The country has a per capita GDP (PPP) of $17,943 and approximately six percent of the population is living below the poverty line.
Gabon, an African country, has traditionally been an oil-dependent economy. However, over the years, the economy has been diversifying into other sectors. The government is heavily investing in infrastructure and human resources. Gabon has a nominal GDP of $20.67 billion and a per capita GDP (PPP) of $21,619. The country has an average national savings rate of 41.23 percent of the GDP.
The Bottom Line
A few of the other countries that have a national savings rate in the 30-40 percent of the GDP range are Oman, Norway, Botswana, Zambia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Libya, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Bhutan, Vietnam, India and Taiwan.
Data source: IMF and CIA Factbook