Richest Countries in South America 2021

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The fourth-largest continent on Earth, South America is home to wonders ranging from the impossibly lush Amazon rainforest to the mountaintop Inca fortress Machu Picchu. It is also home to 12 countries, all United Nations member states, many of which possess significant natural resources. While none of South America's countries stand out as wealthy compared to the wealthiest in Europe, Asia, or North America, several have emerging economies that can help the continent grow into a more influential and impactful role on the global economic stage.

One of the most commonly used measures of a country's economic wealth is Gross National Product (GDP) per capita. This metric represents the overall value of all goods and services produced in the country (the GDP) divided by the number of people (the "capita") who live in the country. While GDP per capita should not be viewed as a direct estimate of the average or median salary a person in that country earns, it is still a helpful at-a-glance measure of the country's general economic health.

Top 12 Wealthiest Countries in South America (by GDP per capita - International Monetary Fund Oct 2021)*

* measurement: Current prices at Purchasing Power Parity, expressed in international dollars per capita.

  1. Chile - $26,513
  2. Guyana - $24,494
  3. Uruguay - $23,868
  4. Argentina - $22,891
  5. Suriname - $16,793
  6. Brazil - $16,168
  7. Colombia - $15,921
  8. Paraguay - $13,723
  9. Peru - $13,410
  10. Ecuador - $11,528
  11. Bolivia - $8,900
  12. Venezuela - $5,162

The numbers above demonstrate that "wealthy" is a relative measure in South America. For comparison, the richest countries in the world have GDPs per capita of more than $100,000, the United States places eighth with $69,380, and all but the poorest countries in Europe top $25,000. However, as mentioned, the economies of many [countries in South America] are showing signs of growth.

Also, as useful as GDP per capita is, it can be artificially inflated by looser tax laws in tax haven countries, leading to warped rankings. To address this concern, many economic analysts also examine Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. Like GDP, it measures the value of all goods and services produced in a country. However, GNI also includes money entering or leaving the country via international businesses. This eliminates the distortion caused by tax shelters and enables more accurate country-to-country comparisons:

Top 12 Wealthiest Countries in South America (by GNI per capita - World Bank 2020)**

** measurement: Atlas method, current US$

  1. Uruguay - $15,830
  2. Chile - $13,470
  3. Venezuela - $13,080
  4. Argentina - $8,930
  5. Brazil - $7,850
  6. Guyana - $6,600
  7. Peru - $6,010
  8. Colombia - $5,780
  9. Ecuador - $5,530
  10. Suriname - $5,510
  11. Paraguay - $5,140
  12. Bolivia - $3,200

Few South American countries have made themselves into tax shelters, so comparing GNI per capita to GDP per capita does not reshape the list as drastically as it would in Europe or Asia, but it still has an impact. Guyana and Venezuela are particularly affected, although differences in reporting methods between World Bank and International Monetary Fund could also be influencing those results.

Ultimately, it's clear from the data that South America, like Africa, has a way to go before catching up to the wealth of Europe, North America, and even parts of Asia. However, given its ample natural resources and the passion of its people, there is good reason to be optimistic that the economies of South America will continue to grow and develop, improving the wealth of its countries and the lives of its people.

Here are the 10 richest countries in South America:

  1. United States ($18.62 Tn)
  2. Brazil ($1.80 Tn)
  3. Canada ($1.53 Tn)
  4. Mexico ($1.08 Tn)
  5. Argentina ($545.87 Bn)
  6. Venezuela ($291.38 Bn)
  7. Colombia ($282.46 Bn)
  8. Chile ($247.05 Bn)
  9. Peru ($192.21 Bn)
  10. Puerto Rico ($105.03 Bn)

Richest Countries in South America 2021

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Richest Countries in South America 2021

Country GDP (IMF '19) GDP (UN '16) Per Capita
United States$21.34 Tn$18.62 Tn$55,944
Brazil$1.96 Tn$1.80 Tn$8,392
Canada$1.74 Tn$1.53 Tn$40,185
Mexico$1.24 Tn$1.08 Tn$8,267
Argentina$477.74 Bn$545.87 Bn$11,969
Venezuela$76.46 Bn$291.38 Bn$10,151
Colombia$336.60 Bn$282.46 Bn$5,510
Chile$295.61 Bn$247.05 Bn$12,859
Peru$232.08 Bn$192.21 Bn$5,762
Puerto Rico$103.51 Bn$105.03 Bn$37,138
Ecuador$106.29 Bn$98.01 Bn$5,479
Cuba-$89.69 Bn$7,925
Dominican Republic$84.84 Bn$71.58 Bn$6,535
Guatemala$82.33 Bn$68.76 Bn$3,768
Costa Rica$60.46 Bn$57.44 Bn$11,176
Panama$70.16 Bn$55.19 Bn$12,595
Uruguay$60.23 Bn$52.42 Bn$15,041
Bolivia$43.69 Bn$33.81 Bn$2,857
Paraguay$42.35 Bn$27.17 Bn$3,763
El Salvador$26.99 Bn$26.80 Bn$4,111
Trinidad And Tobago$22.44 Bn$24.09 Bn$17,163
Honduras$24.65 Bn$21.52 Bn$2,138
Jamaica$16.15 Bn$14.06 Bn$4,727
Nicaragua$12.61 Bn$13.23 Bn$1,974
Bahamas$13.26 Bn$11.26 Bn$28,373
Haiti$9.60 Bn$7.65 Bn$663
Bermuda-$6.13 Bn$98,685
Barbados$5.21 Bn$4.55 Bn$15,824
Cayman Islands-$3.84 Bn$57,808
Guyana$3.83 Bn$3.44 Bn$4,348
Suriname$3.68 Bn$3.28 Bn$5,540
Curacao-$3.12 Bn$18,941
Aruba$2.88 Bn$2.67 Bn$24,878
Greenland-$2.28 Bn$40,138
Belize$2.00 Bn$1.74 Bn$4,300
Antigua And Barbuda$1.72 Bn$1.46 Bn$14,789
Saint Lucia$1.97 Bn$1.40 Bn$7,576
Sint Maarten-$1.07 Bn$24,695
Grenada$1.27 Bn$1.02 Bn$8,991
British Virgin Islands-$971.24 Mn$31,927
Turks And Caicos Islands-$917.55 Mn$23,388
Saint Kitts And Nevis$1.06 Bn$909.85 Mn$16,993
Saint Vincent And the Grenadines$864.00 Mn$765.32 Mn$6,878
Dominica$542.00 Mn$581.48 Mn$8,057
Anguilla-$337.52 Mn$22,327
Montserrat-$62.05 Mn$12,468

Richest Countries in South America 2021