Fri, 22 Jan 2021

COVID Pushing Least Developed Countries Over Edge, UN Says

Voice of America
04 Dec 2020, 00:35 GMT+10

GENEVA - The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development reports the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on most of the world's 47 least developed countries whose economies have slumped to the lowest level in 30 years.

In this year's Least Developed Countries Report, UNCTAD economists warn the current grim situation will not improve unless the world's poorest countries drastically boost their productive capacities. They report average income is likely to fall in at least 43 of the 47 LDCs, pushing 32 million people into extreme poverty.

Director of UNCTAD'S Division for Africa and LDCs, Paul Akiwumi, says LDCs need to focus on their productive capacity to diversify their economies so they can deal with the challenges of climate change, recession and now COVID.

He says LDCs must build up their productive human, natural and capital resources and entrepreneurship to provide goods and services. This, he says, will enable them to grow and develop their economies.

"Now it is quite clear that LDCs being commodity-driven need to move forward in their development paradigm. And, we have seen through the COVID crisis that because they are commodity-driven, they have been able-and all the lockdown happened-they have been able to export less. Their revenues are down, their tax collection is down, and their economies have suffered considerably," he said.

Akiwumi cited lagging international support as another problem. Because funding is down, he said, LDCs have little money for social development and are unable to service their foreign debt.

The report finds eight LDCs-Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Rwanda have modernized and transformed their productive capacities into better performing economic structures. It says Asian LDCs have increased their manufacturing capacity, which now accounts for 19% of their Gross Domestic Product and 12% employment.

The same cannot be said for African LDCs and Haiti. The report says manufacturing in those countries remains stagnant and accounts for only a 9% GDP and just 5% employment.

UNCTAD is calling on the international community to invest, finance and support LDCs in their efforts to transform and rebuild their economies.

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