The World's 8 Newest Countries Are in a Disaster

Independence was no silver bullet for new economies such as South Sudan

The beach on Helen Island, Hatobei, Palau on June 11 2012. Photographer: Mike Di Paola

The beach on Helen Island, Hatobei, Palau on June 11 2012. Photographer: Mike Di Paola

Photographer: Mike Di Paola

Some own vast natural resources. Others boast pristine beaches. Many were former colonies. Independence was supposed to unlock a future of prosperity. 

But for most of the world's eight newest countries, statehood has been a curse. One of them is even sinking into the Pacific ocean.

A comparison of life expectancy, gross domestic product per capita and economic complexity in these eight nations shows that life after statehood has been a disappointment. Below is a snapshot of where these countries stand today.

Poorer

Six of the eight countries that didn't exist before 1993 have per capita GDP lower than the world's $15,048 as calculated by the World Bank.  In South Sudan, GDP per capita adjusted for relative purchasing power has fallen 23 percent since 2011. In neighboring Sudan, GDP per capita in the same period rose 17 percent.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia are the exceptions partly because of the advantages they derived by joining the European Union following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Serbia, which is also trying to gain membership, may enjoy the same benefit too, one day.

Shorter Lives

If you are from South Sudan, your life expectancy is 55, one year more than when the country was declared independent. Only in the freshly-minted European states will you live past 70.

Unsophisticated economies

For many newborn nations, the unifying plague is the inability to diversify their economies.

Oil-rich South Sudan, the youngest of the lot, erupted into civil war within two years of seceding from the north. The instability, along with the plunge in oil prices, has decimated what is virtually its only source of revenue. Timor-Leste also can't seem to shake its dependence on oil more than a decade after breaking off from Indonesia.

In Eritrea, which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993, money sent home by ex-patriot workers accounts for over a third of GDP, while tourism dominates the economy of tiny Palau.  This low-lying western Pacific nation's single-industry reliance may be of lesser concern than its sinking into the very waters attracting tourists. 

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