Comparing Nations: Nominal GDP per Square Kilometre Area

Nominal GDP per square kilometre is a rough estimate of a nation’s productive use of land. It can also be used as a rough estimate of the relative maturity stage of national economic development. Lower ranking nations presumably maintain more potential for future development of land.

Nation GDP Density (USD/Km2) GDP USD x 106 Land Area Km2
Japan 16,352,332 5,960,180 364,485
United Kingdom 10,216,178 2,471,600 241,930
Germany 9,834,189 3,425,956 348,372
Italy 6,846,372 2,013,792 294,140
France 4,077,312 2,611,221 640,427
USA 1,773,047 16,244,600 9,161,966
China 896,208 8,358,400 9,326,410
India 654,748 1,875,213 2,864,021
Brasil 266,430 2,254,109 8,460,415
Australia 204,939 1,564,419 7,633,565
Canada 200,301 1,821,445 9,093,507
Russia 134,928 2,209,812 16,377,742

Numbers for GDP and land area are taken from Wikipedia. A list showing GDP PPP per land area can be found here.

Comparisons such as in the above table can be useful to stimulate hypotheses, although on their own they have little meaning. But when just a bit of background information is added, such comparisons can be seminal.

To make more use of this comparison, one would also need to look at national average IQ, population, demographic trends, economic diversification, percentage of land that is arable and easily developed, and business and investment friendliness of the regime currently in control.

We recently learned that Russia’s economy is smaller than the economy of California, in GDP terms. We would expect Russia’s economy to expand significantly, given the massive natural resources of Russia combined with a relatively high average IQ. Unfortunately, under the Soviet system the spirit and motivation of the Russian masses was beaten down, and has yet to show signs of recovery. Russia’s best brains and most pro-natal wombs are leaving the country for greener pastures abroad. Russia may lose up to 40% of its current population by 2050, according to the UN and other demographic estimates. The current Russian economy is overly dependent upon natural resource exports, suggesting an excessive vulnerability to swings in global commodities markets.

Despite Russia’s demographic problems, its natural resource wealth is massive. The same applies to other nations which score low in the GDP/Land Area comparison, such as Australia, Canada, Brasil, and to a lesser degree, India.

A takeover of Siberian wealth by multiple foreign powers is not out of the question, over the next several decades — if the current decline of Russia continues.

“Back in 2008 the perception was of unstoppable demand growth from China and other emerging economies,” he said. “Today the perception is of a fragile recovery, a very slow moving recovery in the global economy. China is slowing down. Demand growth is not ramping up as fast as was the case previously.”

… “Back in 2008, we were at the peak of a cycle of resource nationalism among producing countries,” Halff said in an interview. “Now we’re in a completely different situation, where some of the very same countries that had indulged in resource nationalism are back-pedaling, and making their investment terms more attractive to foreign companies.” __ Grant Smith in Bloomberg

And yet we see Russia’s Putin stuck in a 2008 mindset, unable to adapt to changing circumstances. This could bode ill for the long-suffering Russian people, who have never had the chance to develop to their potential, due to bad leadership.

Over the next five years, the effects of the global oil-and-gas boom should prove a grim object lesson for the Russian economy on the downside of the “resource curse.” Russia’s economy “largely depends on energy exports,” according to a study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That works well when prices are high, but quite badly when prices fall.

Oil-and-gas revenues account for 70% of Russia’s total exports and more than half the income of its federal government. Russia exports more than seven million barrels of oil a day, second only to Saudi Arabia. One key difference between Russia and the No. 1 exporter is that more than 60% of Russian oil is produced in Siberia, where costs are much higher. A fall in the world price to $75 from $100 would therefore have a much greater impact on the net revenues that Russia earns from oil than is earned by the Saudis.

The downside of the resource curse could also be felt in Russia’s reliance on sales of natural gas. About 75% of Russia’s natural gas exports go to Western Europe, providing 30% of its requirements, at prices that are two and three times the price in the U.S. _Barrons

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11 Responses to Comparing Nations: Nominal GDP per Square Kilometre Area

  1. bob sykes says:

    One of Russia’s problems is that its population density is way too low: half the US population spread over three times the area. From a civil engineering viewpoint this means its infrastructure costs per caput are very high, and this reduces their overall economic efficiency and net productivity.

    The Tsar was lucky to sell off Alaska, although he got less than half the selling price. The rest went to various fees paid to Congress, then as now utterly corrupt. Putin would do well to sell off at least some of Siberia to China. There is already a large Chinese population in southern Siberia.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Exactly. Population density is key to developing a land area — and to holding on to that same land area. But Russia’s population is due for a significant drop, and its economy is smaller than that of California.

      Over half of the Russian government’s operating budget comes from resource exports, and over 60% of those exports come from Siberia. Most of Siberia has not even begun to be developed for its valuable resources. But — ethnic Russians are leaving Siberia almost en masse, further reducing population density..

      From the standpoint of population density and political control, Russia should sell parts of its eastern empire to China, Japan, and other nations with economies large enough to meet the challenge of such a land mass.

      Something to think about: What happens to Russia’s grand plans of neo-empire should global oil & gas prices drop significantly over a period of months or years?

      • Stephen says:

        If Russia were to sell of parts of Siberia, perhaps they sell some to European powers and wealthy non-state actors looking to set up a polity as well as China and Japan. A wealthy libertarian or transhumanist or futurist or reactionary Christian or white nationalist would probably love to have land to set up his own state with.

      • alfin2101 says:

        Right. But why limit sales of Siberia to just a few groups? If the price is right, Russia might be happy to sell to anyone, the way things are going. Nothing like a population die-off combined with an economic downturn to motivate survivors to sell wasted assets — before the assets can be seized in a hostile takeover..

  2. Gerald says:

    I’m not sure why Russia or any other country should sell off valuable assets to foreigners. At most, a country should lease the assets so the rents and the bulk of the value go back to the country.

    Greater population density and economic growth in and of themselves aren’t compelling reasons to sell off assets, especially when the greater density and economic growth involve foreigners, not yourself. Greater population density and economic growth don’t have value in and of themselves, and they have costs as well.

    • alfin2101 says:

      You may be right — and perhaps you should be right in an ideal world from the Russian point of view. But that is not the world that anyone lives in.

      Russia sold Alaska to the US, and Napoleon sold the Louisiana Purchase to the US, because the respective governments needed the cash, and were afraid they would lose the territories anyway if nothing was done.

      Remember that Siberia is the center of most of Russia’s wealth, but at the same time Siberia is being depopulated of ethnic Russians and is slowly losing control to China. This is not a sustainable situation for Russia in the long run. Russia’s entire economy is smaller than California’s. Even neglecting Siberia, Russia is bleeding capital and its most valuable people to the west and to China.

      In less than 100 years, Russia went through multiple revolutions. After the next revolution and fall of Russia’s government — similar to the fall of the USSR — the successor government may similarly fear loss of control of Siberia to Central Asian people or to China. That may spur a sale to Japan, Europe, or China. If they do not have the ability to control the vast areas, and are apt to lose them anyway, they may prefer the cash.

  3. Stephen says:

    If Russia really needs cash and more Russians in Siberia, maybe Russia could due a little to make up an old wrong and sell “Kalingrad Oblast” back to Germany. This way Russia could get cash and move the Russian colonists in “Kalingrad Oblast” to places where they are demographically needed such as Novosibirsk and other Siberian areas.
    Germany then could renovate the former Oblast, bring back Konigsburg, move the descendants of the East Prussians and other survivors of the genocide that was the Expulsions into the region, and integrate it inti Germany as a federal state of Prussia. Or alternatively, Germany let revived Prussia go the Austrian riute and be a separate Teutonophone country. This might be better at keeping non-western immigrants out as I get the impression that Austria has succeeded at keeping intruders out better than Germany.

  4. I have been following Alfin for several years. Much of what you profer here and in previous incarnations is excellent. I am curious why you have such a visceral hatred for Russia?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Actually, it is Putin whom I hold in contempt. I happen to love Russian women, and respect the hardy and stubborn nature of many Russian men.

      Russia in its current form is untenable. That is simply what one must conclude if one runs the numbers in a dispassionate manner, without preconceptions or wishful thinking.

      In order for Putin to save himself, he must continue to destroy the motivation, independence, and initiative of the Russian people, and the economies of his neighbors that try to escape Putin’s orbit.

      It is not necessary for one’s skull to be literally filled with shite in order to admire Putin, but it helps.

  5. I would contend your hatred of Putin is a bit unhinged. He does not have to be the second coming to be orders of magnitude superior to the man he succeeded who gave away the store.

    He was dealt a bad hand and has played it as well as could be played. Even giving him a c- is better than the f- to Bush for getting us into wars we did not need or Obama’s f– for keeping us there.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Contempt is not the same thing as hatred. Putin does not have enough substance to hate.

      Constructive comments should try to avoid ad hominem, non sequitur, red herrings, and tu coq, among other fallacies.

      For example, attacking other incompetent leaders is not a valid way to defend the corrupt and incompetent leader under examination. Perhaps that is one way the internet dumbs down discussion, but that fallacious approach is all too common when a commenter’s hero is attacked. Not only is such a response irrelevant, it is also a feeble attempt to change the subject.

      Try not to become too attached to the things you argue about. That is the path to unhingement.

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