Next time you come up short for cocktail-party chatter, just remember: “Equatorial Guinea.”
I take that lesson from the Economist magazine’s 2006 Pocket World in Figures, a book that compiles a wide range of numbers about various countries and regions of the world. Following are a few unexpected results that caught my eye.
Which country had the highest economic growth from 1993 to 2003, measured by the average annual percentage increase in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?
Everybody knows about China’s big growth, but at 8.9% it’s only enough for 4th place. The winner is Equatorial Guinea at 25.9%, due to its relatively recent exploitation of oil reserves. The other two ahead of China (Bosnia and Liberia) both experienced bounce-back growth after wars.
Which country is the largest donor of bilateral and multilateral aid, as a percentage of GDP?
If you’re expecting a Scandinavian country to be the winner here, you are close. Norway (0.92% of GDP) and Denmark (0.84% of GDP) are numbers two and three. But number one is Saudi Arabia at 1.11% of GDP. What about the United States? Although it is by far the largest donor nation in absolute dollars, it ranks 26th when measured as a percentage of GDP (0.15%).
Which country is most energy efficient, in terms of GDP per unit of energy use?
This one is measured in “purchasing power parity dollars per kilogram of oil equivalent.” I take that to mean economic output per energy input. The winner is Peru, and the rest of the top-10 countries are strange bedfellows: Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Namibia, Morocco, Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Italy.
Which country has the greatest number of cars per 1,000 people?
Unless you somehow already know the answer, don’t bother guessing. The winner is Lebanon at 732 cars per 1,000 people. The United States is 14th at 481 per 1,000.
That result about car-happy Lebanon begs to have its source checked. However, specific sourcing is absent from 2006 Pocket World in Figures, an unfortunate omission even if the book’s purpose is more toward entertainment than serious reference material.
So there you have it. If, after dishing these facts and figures, you aren’t the life of the party, then you’re not partying with the Council on Foreign Relations.