We Kiwis are wealthier (per capita) than the Saudis? Indeed we are, according to a new natural capital study

New Zealanders  have  more  to  celebrate  than   being  virtually  Covid-free, or having  Jacinda Ardern  as  prime  minister.

According  to  a  report  in the London  “Economist”, NZ  has  more natural  capital per person ($US380,000)  than  oil-rich  Kuwait  ($US362,000)  or  Saudi Arabia  ($US180.000).

The  study which produced this  ranking   is  the  work of  economists  attempting to put a  dollar  figure  on the  value of the world’s land, forests, fisheries, minerals,  and  fossil fuels, or  what is left of them.  Their  work has  fed  into the inclusive  wealth project, initiated  by the United  Nations, directed by  Managi Shunsuke of  Kyushu  University and  advised by  Sir  Partha Dasgupta  of Cambridge.

They  estimate the  world’s  natural capital  amounted  to  over  $US91trn in  2014, or  over  $US13,000  per  person.   The  world’s  natural  capital  is  predicted to   decline   by a  fifth by  2040.

On  average,  countries  with  more natural  capital  tend  to have a  higher GDP  per person.

The  “Economist”  wonders  whether  this  is a  curse or  a blessing.  It  says  some  economists argue that  natural  bounty raises  the  level of  GDP  but  slows  its growth  rate:  it  provides an additional, steady stream of  income  that grows  less  quickly  than  the  rest of  the  economy.

Those  authorities   who carried  out  the  study    have  calculated  the future trajectory of  natural capital  under  a  variety of  scenarios.  In  a  future of  continued high energy demand,  carbon emissions can be expected to grow  by 7% in high-income  countries  and by 44% in the rest of the world over the  next two  decades.

In such a  scenario, the  world’s people  will  continue to grow  wealthier,  but natural  assets  will  diminish  rapidly as a  share  of the  portfolio. According to these projections  only  12  countries  will increase  their  stock of  natural  capital over the  next  two decades.

Point of  Order   suspects  this  will  not  provoke  a  “gee, whiz”   reaction from  NZers—but  certainly  there  is  some  food  for  thought  there.

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