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International Dollar, Geary-Khamis Dollar
Definitions, Meaning Explained, Calculation, Usage, and Examples

The prices of goods and services in different countries and different currencies can be compared by converting currencies to the International Dollar. These conversions are based on measured purchasing power parity.

What is the international dollar?

The International dollar (also known as the Geary-Khamis dollar) is a currency unit used by economists and international organizations to compare the values of different currencies. International dollar comparisons between countries have been adjusted to reflect currency exchange rates, but also adjusted to reflect purchasing power parity (PPP) and average commodity prices within each country.

International dollars for a single year are typically presented as the current international dollar—reflecting the current year's exchange rates and current PPP adjustments. When figures are compared across years, they may also be adjusted for inflation so as to represent currencies in constant (international) dollars for a base year, such as 2000.

What is the history of the international dollar? When was the concept first used?

The International dollar was first proposed by Roy C. Geary, an Irish statistician, in 1958.  It was further developed and promoted in the 1970s by Salem Hanna Khamis, a Palestinian economic statistician. In the last few decades, various forms of the international dollar have become the metric of choice for organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, for comparing wealth and individual earnings between nations.

Npte that the International dollar comparisons between countries will generally differ from comparisons based solely on currency exchange rates (so-called nominal, or exchange rate comparisons). 

How do Gross National Income Figures (GNI) for fifty different countries compare, when expressed in International dollars?

Here, for example are World Bank GNI figures for 50 country economies, showing per capita gross national income (GNI) expressed in international dollars (3rd column). As of early 2016, figures latest available figures are for 2014.Figures for and 2015 and 2016 are not yet available. Figures marked with * are for 2013. All figures in this table figures are based on the year 2011 base international dollar.

Approx Rank Intl$
Basis

Country
2013 GNI Per Capita
Intl $ Basis
1 Qatar 134,420
2 Singapore 80,270
3 United Arab Emirates 67,720
4 Norway 66,330
5 Luxembourg 65,040
6 Switzerland 57,960*
7 United States 55,860
8 Saudi Arabia 51,320*
9 Netherlands 48,260
10 Germany 46,850
11 Sweden 46,750
12 Denmark 46,210
13 Austria 45,930
14 Canada 43,360
15 Belgium 43,220
15 Australia 42,760
16 Ireland 42,270
17 Iceland 41,090*
18 Finland 39,940
19 France 39,610
20 United Kingdom 39,040
21 Japan 37,920
22 Italy 35,540
23 Spain 34,700
24 Israel 32,830
25 New Zealand 34,970
26 Republic of Korea 34,620
27 Israel 32,820
28 Trinadad and Tobago 31,970
29 Slovenia 29,920
30 Portugal 28,010
31 Malta 27,020*
32 Czech Republic 26,020
33 Slovak Republic 26,820
34 Estonia 26,330
35 Greece 25,660
36 Lithuania 25,490
37 Seychelles 24,780
38 Malaysia 24,770
39 Russian Federation 24,710
40 Puerto Rico 23,960*
41 Poland 23,930
42 Sst. Kitts and Nevis 22,600
43 Equatorial Guinea 17,660
44 Turkey 19,020
45 Uruguay 18,940
46 Romania 18,410
47 Venezuela 17,700*
48 Mexico 16,640
49 Thailand 14,870
50 China 13,170
South Africa 12,700
Serbia 12,150

These per capita figures, of course, represent total country GNIs divided by each country's average population. The 2014 international dollar figures show, for example, that the average citizen of Norway was represented by slightly less than twice the economic output of the average Spanish citizen (Intl $66,330 vs. $34,700). .

International dollar figures may be expressed as current international dollars (as in the table above), in which case the exchange rate adjustments and PPP adjustments represent the stated year's exchange rates and buying power figures for each country. 

What further adjustments are sometimes made for international dollars figures to compensate for inflation?

When comparisons are made between years, as well as between countries, the International dollar figures may be further adjusted to compensate for inflation. In that case, a base year will be specified, e.g., (2011 for the above table), and all figures between countries and between years will be expressed in constant international "2011 international dollars" or some constant dollars for some other base year.

In summary, those comparing economic figures from different countries and different times should be sure to understand carefully which adjustment or adjustments are reflected in the data:

  • Population adjustments (In which case, figures represent per capita monies)
  • Currency exchange rate adjustments (In which case, figures will be expressed in one currency unit (typically US$,  International $, € £ or ¥)
  • Purchasing power parity adjustments and/or average commodity prices (in which case, figures are typically expressed as International $)
  • Inflation adjustments (in which case, figures have been adjusted, based on changes in an inflation index such as the consumer price index, to represent currency for a "base" year, such as 2000).