Sizzling South Sudan: Op-Ed by Alex de Waal

Foreign Affairs

Alex de Waal

The newly independent Republic of South Sudan may top the list of the world's fastest-growing economies in 2013. The main reason for this is that last year South Sudan experienced one of the most spectacular economic contractions of any state in modern times -- a situation that is expected to reverse in the year ahead.

The South Sudanese economy crashed 12 months ago when, during a dispute with northern Sudan, the South Sudanese government shut down the nation's entire oil production. Until then, oil revenues, totaling about $400 million per month, had represented 82 percent of South Sudan's gross domestic product and 98 percent of government revenues. The oil companies were stunned by the shutdown; their revenues fell to zero. A World Bank director commented that the bank had never seen such a dramatic collapse. The IMF, meanwhile, estimates that South Sudan's GDP contracted by 55 percent in 2012.

South Sudan is scheduled to resume oil production soon, but it will take four to six months to reach pre-shutdown levels. Assuming no further delays, South Sudan's economic growth during 2013 could reach an astonishing 70 percent.

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