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The World Is Getting Richer. Some People Faster Than Others

  • Global wealth surged between 1995 and 2014, World Bank says
  • Wealth remains unequal, and some countries are falling behind

The world’s total wealth is growing and that’s a good thing, but it’s still not fixing the inequality divide, according to a new report by the World Bank.

The gap between the richest and poorest nations remains large, and wealth per person around the world is growing more slowly than the overall figure, the development lender said in a report called “The Changing Wealth of Nations.” In some countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita wealth is actually falling, according to the report, which tracked 141 countries between 1995 and 2014.

The World Bank’s definition of wealth includes production capital such as machinery, natural capital like oil deposits and farmland, individual earnings and net foreign assets. Global wealth increased 66 percent from 1995 to 2014, the World Bank said. The share held by middle-income countries rose to 28 percent from 19 percent, while the proportion in OECD nations dropped to 65 percent from 75 percent -- a trend the lender attributes to the “phenomenal” rise of Asia.

However, the share of global wealth held by sub-Saharan Africa barely budged from less than 1 percent, the World Bank said. Some nations saw their wealth slide, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Tanzania. The lender suggests its wealth measure could be a useful complement to gross domestic product in measuring sustainable development.

The bank urged countries to use their natural capital more efficiently and invest the proceeds in infrastructure and education, which it said are crucial to growing wealth.

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