Super-Strange Mini-Encyclopedia of Countries on Earth (Part IV)


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SAUDI ARABIA

This country has it all to fatten its people’s bellies. Imagine 265 billion barrels of oil! Given the assumption that the country’s oil production is kept on the same pace, that is 10 million barrels a day for a year, the oil reserves would stand still for the next 7.5 decades. Oil, perhaps, has also fueled population boom; 4 decades prior, the country’s population was merely 6.5 million; this year, it has climbed into a staggering level: 30 million. And, as some forecast, in 2050, the population would jump higher and further into another breathtaking level: 100 million, or more. But, even a country bestowed with so much oil can not escape what has been soi-disant by many economists as ‘oil curse’: unemployment rates remain one of the highest in the world, which is more than 30%.

Peter Maass’ book of ill-fated oil countries, ‘Crude World’, would really open your eyes about how oil – as Ryszard Kapuscinski described as ‘anesthetizes thoughts, blurs visions, and corrupts’ – slowly absorbs the government’s good face. In his odyssey into the Land of 1001 Nights, he described Riyadh’s King Fahd International Airport as ‘the largest, and the most silent airport in the world, where your laughing sound may echo almost all around the terminal’. Few tourists ever visit this country; most of the foreigners you may meet here are workers. Americans and Europeans dominate the top seats in oil and banking industry, meanwhile Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and Pakistanis are low-paid workers in construction sector, Indonesian women as servants, Egyptian and Sudanese workers employed in banking service and communication sector, and etc. There is a principle among most of the Arabs that ‘rather than having a low-paid, difficult work, they prefer being unemployed’, because the oil money has provided everything, and think that oil wealth would last forever. Peter Maass also recounts that many of the country’s youth generation are being ‘lost’; they either end up in car accidents as they like to drive like crazy, or die staunchfully in full service as mujahideen.

I am obviously unsure what would happen to the country when Saudi Arabia – now a country of flowing oil – when the last drop of oil has been spared. That would be catastrophic, if they don’t change their mindsets.

NIGERIA

In the long run, Indonesia has got a friend, in terms of massive corruption rates. Throughout the period from 1960 to 2010, almost 500 billion US$ has been generated from oil & gas production, particularly in Niger Delta – the heartpump of Nigeria’s economy, but it is later discovered that less than 5% of it goes to annual national budgets. Only 25 billion US$ over half a century that really goes to fund public projects? But that’s the reality. Most of the money goes to the ministers, the presidents, the cronies, the rebels, the soldiers, the mercenaries, the policemen, the bureaucrats, and of course, to their big fat round bellies!

Until now, adjusted to UN’s standards, 85% of Nigeria’s 150 million people remain poor (Indonesia is slightly a bit much better), indicating that they earn less than 2 US$ a day. But, I don’t know which investment bank made that statement, but it is clearly written that Nigeria has potential to become Africa’s next economic powerhouse. Given that the country’s GDP now is 200 billion US$, the bank begins to put a special priority on this country. Let’s see 40 years later.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Who says China has the fastest growing economy in the world? They haven’t taken a deeper look at this tiny country, with population less than 1 million. The economy grows 33% every year! As usual, like two countries above I had mentioned, this country relies on the liquid named ‘oil’. But, as what Ryszard Kapuscinski has said, oil anesthetizes thought, blurs visions, and corrupts.

And that’s true if you have an eye on the highest leaders of the country.

This is a typical of family-controlled country, a some kind of empire alike: it is led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who was rumored to have deep connections with those working in Washington, D.C. and even has his hundred-million-dollar assets stored in one of the banks there. More burlesque, one of his many sons and daughters purchased a private yacht worth 420 million US$, which is more than a dozen times the amount of the country’s budget spent on education! Another one, also one of his many sons and daughters, is also reported to have purchased a few million-dollar mansions in South Africa.

HONGKONG & MACAU

In fact, Hongkong & Macau are countries. But, they are countries that are owned by People’s Republic of China. Which is why there is a political vocabulary phrase of ‘one country, two systems’. This implies that both the governments of Hongkong & Macau are given almost-limitless freedom in operating these territories: they have their own capitals, currencies, police forces (except soldiers, because it is China’s People’s Liberation Army who has authorities to secure both these territories), flags, constitution, parliament, law, regulations, and distinct societies (people from Macau and Hongkong tend to be more Westernized than their Mainland Chinese counterparts), but despite all these kinds of liberty, it is still the leaders in China who have the highest control in both these countries.

Actually, the government has been proposing to apply the similar ‘one country, two systems’ concept in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan, but until now, there is not much progress in it.

GREENLAND

Within a few years, Greenland would soon be no longer a ‘dependent country’ of Denmark. It is the largest island in the work, it is 2.5 times larger than the second largest island, Papua Island, but the population is less than 60,000. Despite little population, Greenland is gifted with so abundant natural resources, particularly oil. It has been scientifically proven that as many as 50 billion barrels of oil exist beneath the seas surrounding Greenland, which means that the economic values of these resources may be at least 5 trillion US$, given that today’s oil price has climbed to more than 100 bucks a hogshead.

Greenland also actually ‘benefits’ from global warming – the area has been a bit warmer recently, and experts have forecast, given that no efforts are being made to slow down the greenhouse effects, Greenland would be totally, truly a ‘mass greenland’. This has been proven by the increasing agricultural yields of the newly-born country; potato and spinach have been grown in many little farms throughout the territories.

ICELAND

This country increasingly became both popular and notorious after two big calamities hit this little, 300,000-man nation: the former is natural, while the latter is financial.

In 2010, one of the country’s active volcanoes, Eyjafjyallajokull, erupted. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, but the long-term consequences were mostly felt throughout Europe. Hundreds, perhaps thousand, of flights were subsequently delayed, and soon many major international airports throughout the continent ended up in meccas. Due to delayed flights, it is estimated that the economic cost would be up to 10 billion US$.

In 2008, Iceland was almost devastated by the global economic crisis. Three of its major banks – Glitnir, Landsbanki, and Kaupthing – had, in fact, debts that exceeded 6 times of the total GDP of the country (the debts are known to have soared until 120 billion US$). Wikileaks even cracked down much more information about the skeletons in the industry’s closets: much of the money was discovered to have been squandered, and one of the banks owners even hired a hundred-million-dollar private jet to fetch Elton John for a private concert in his mansion, if I am not mistaken.

SOMALILAND

Somaliland is the only country in this planet that is not recognized by even one country in this planet. But, it does not mean that the country is totally isolated, but only in terms of political recognition. The country is still undergoing progress to upgrade its status from poor to emerging, step by step. To prove it, just type this name in Wikipedia, and you can find out one image of a newly-built shopping mall in Hargeysa, its capital. Now, the country is much better than its twin brother in south, and its economy is quite vibrant.

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