Call for LDCs to adopt technology
The least-developed countries in the Asia Pacific region need to stimulate inclusive economic growth, create jobs, fortify domestic efforts, diversify economic activities and embrace modern technology to graduate from their category.
Targeted policies and programmes are needed to reduce inequalities and remove disparities, Syed Nuruzzaman, a senior official of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said yesterday.
Attention is also required for agriculture and rural development, food and nutrition security, social protection and social services and environmental concerns, he added.
His comments came at a regional meeting styled “Financing Graduation Gaps of Asia Pacific LDCs” at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel, where 55 officials from 12 LDCs from the Asia-Pacific region gathered for a three-day meeting.
The Economic Relations Division in association with the ESCAP and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs are organising the event.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith said Bangladesh has come up with strategies and is following them to move out of the LDC group.
For smooth graduation, the Asia Pacific LDCs would have to attract external financing, expand domestic tax mobilisation, eradicate poverty and make the best use of modern technology for industrial purposes as well as government work.
The minister called for special measures for the LDCs so they can fully benefit from the globalisation process like Bangladesh did. “These economies must be integrated with the global economy.”
Mustafa K Mujeri, director general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, urged the LDCs to make policies that support economic expansion and reduce inequality such that high disparity does not lead to social tension.
They also need support so they can bridge the infrastructure gap within the shortest possible time, he said, while calling for good governance in all areas of the LDC economies.
Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, said technology would determine the development of the LDCs.
“It is heartening that the LDC Technology Bank at the UN is taking shape. Globally, at various levels, the LDCs would require facilitated access to lifesaving technologies in health, agriculture, food and climate change.”
Alam said while demographic dividend offers prospects for most LDCs, creating necessary framework and access to contemporary knowledge and technology pose challenge for the countries.
In order to leapfrog, the LDCs need greater support in focusing on 'science-technology-innovation' compared to the existing national educational, skills development or human resources planning.
He said the Intellectual Property Rights restrictions must be addressed forthright. “The efforts in the LDCs to develop adaptive technologies also need to be fully supported.”
The state minister also said that enabling global environment remains crucial for the LDCs to fully reap benefits of the globalised movement of goods, services, investment, finance, trade, knowledge and people.
“LDCs should be supported in their efforts on integration with the global value chains.”
He also said the global economic and political institutions and platforms need to hear sincerely and more about the needs and challenges of the LDCs.
ERD Secretary Mohammad Mejbahuddin said LDCs would have to strengthen supply-side capacity for taking full advantage of preferential market access.
During a discussion on graduation criteria, Wahiduddin Mahmud, a noted economist, said the criterion is very complex for the most disadvantaged countries.
He said the LDCs are also becoming marginalised in the global economy in their share of global trade and are finding it difficult to improve.
The former caretaker government adviser urged the LDCs not to be afraid of graduation in fear of losing preferential market access.
“LDCs should look for other opportunities instead of cashing in on the benefits only available for them,” Mahmud said.
Nuruzzaman, chief of Countries with Special Needs Section at the ESCAP's macroeconomic policy and development division, provided a list of development challenges the 12 LDCs in the Asia Pacific region face.
His list includes: poverty and inequality, lack of productive and decent jobs, low employment intensity of growth, hunger and food insecurity, infrastructural deficiencies, low level of human development and high vulnerability, economic insecurity and lack of social protection.
The list also consisted gaps such as inadequate financial inclusion, unsustainable pressure on natural resources and ecological imbalances, declining official development assistance (ODA) flows and weak institutional capacities.
The ESCAP senior official offered recommendations to solve those problems.
He called for fundamental restructuring of earlier approach for graduation, with more strategic focus, comprehensive and sustained strategies based on country-specific situation, taking into account the individual constraints, vulnerabilities and potentials of each country.
“There should be more robust and sustained commitments by the international community,” he said.
He said in view of the emerging instabilities and vulnerabilities of the global economy, there is a need to focus ODA on structural transformation. The UN official called for elimination of corruption and improvement of governance.
“The LDCs need to exploit all opportunities for increased regional and sub-regional cooperation,” he said. While making a presentation, Oliver Paddison, an economist at ESCAP's macroeconomic and policy development division, said Bangladesh can raise its tax-GDP ratio to 18 percent from the current 10.5 percent if it can plug some loopholes.
“There are too many tax exemptions and concessions in the country. There might be some concessions but the list should not be too long,” he told The Daily Star, adding that less than one percent of the population pay taxes. He said the region accounts for 60 percent of the total illicit outflows of $5.9 trillion from developing countries.
The countries should introduce minimum taxes on companies and associations of persons and create special tax courts to tackle tax evasion and fraud, he said.