In a major leap forward, Bangladesh has become eligible to graduate to a developing country from a least developed one as it has met all the three criteria for the first time for getting out of the LDC bloc.
The Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a United Nations panel, made an announcement on the country's eligibility at a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Bangladesh's Permanent Representative to the UN Masud Bin Momen said yesterday.
"The CDP will officially communicate this to the mission at a simple ceremony today [early Saturday]," he told this newspaper over the phone.
Two other countries -- Myanmar and Laos -- have also become eligible to leave the LDC bloc, he added.
The three criteria are Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI).
According to the UN's graduation threshold, the GNI per capita of a country has to be $1,230 or above. Bangladesh's GNI per capita is now $1,272.
In terms of the HAI, a country must have a score of 66 or above. Bangladesh's score is now 72.8 -- well above the threshold.
The HAI is an indicator of nutrition, health, adult literacy and secondary school enrolment rate.
In the economic vulnerability index (EVI), a country's score has to be 32 or below. Bangladesh's score is 25 in the EVI, an indicator of natural and trade-related shocks.
The CDP will review Bangladesh's progress in 2021, and the country's official graduation from the LDC category will take place after a three-year transition period.
If the country maintains its position in all the three categories for the next six years, it will eventually graduate from the LDC bloc.
Zahid Hussain, lead economist at the World Bank's Dhaka office, said Bangladesh is the only country to have met all the three criteria at the same time for becoming eligible to graduate from the LDC bloc.
"It will have to pass two more reviews in 2021 and 2024 to get out of the LDC list. The graduation process has just begun. Progress on the three criteria will have to be sustained to make sure we graduate in 2024," he told this newspaper.
"We need to make much more progress in reducing the percentage of undernourished population to increase our achievement on the Human Assets Index. Reducing undernourishment is much more challenging than reducing the percentage of population in poverty," Zahid observed.
He further said there are also considerable challenges on the economic vulnerability front. Reducing export concentration has proven to be difficult.
"Our dependence on garments continues. Our exports of goods and services have also been very volatile. Trade policy, logistics and business regulations reforms will be critical for export diversification and stability."
One of the major challenges will be to maintain stability of agricultural production as availability of farmland is decreasing. Besides, adverse effects of climate change are getting more noticeable, he noted.
Besides, it has to be ensured that natural disasters do not lead to an increase in the proportion of homeless population. Bangladesh has done well in coping with natural disasters but this should never be taken for granted, added the WB lead economist.
The UN gave LDC status to 17 countries in 1971. Now, the total number of LDCs is 47.
Five countries have so far graduated from LDC status: Botswana in 1994, Cape Verde in 2007, the Maldives in 2011, Samoa in 2014, and Equatorial Guinea last year.
The UN reviews the list of LDCs every three years and makes recommendations on the inclusion and graduation of eligible countries. The UN did the review the last time in 2015 when three countries, including Nepal and Bhutan, became eligible for graduation from the LDC bloc.
Bangladesh's graduation will have some implications for its economy.
Once the country gets out of the LDC bloc in 2024, it will probably be given a three-year transition period before it loses duty-free and quota-free market access to the European Union under the Everything but Arms initiative for LDCs, according to the CDP.
The benefits of technical cooperation and other forms of assistance such as fund support for scholarship, fellowship, participation for special training as well as for research will be pulled out. The scope of the credit accessibility will also be reduced.
According to a study by the Economic Relations Division in December last year, Bangladesh is likely to lose about $2.7 billion in export earnings every year once it graduates from the LDC bracket.
At a programme on Thursday, Abul Kalam Azad, chief coordinator for sustainable development goals affairs at the Prime Minister's Office, said the General Economic Division has been asked to identify the challenges with the help of a team of experts.
The government also gave importance to diversify export baskets of agriculture, pharmaceuticals and leather sectors, he said.
"But the diversification of the export basket won't be possible without the cooperation of the private sector," added Azad.
The government has already taken nationwide preparations for celebrating the country's eligibility for graduation from the LDC bloc from March 20 to 25.
A function will be held at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital on March 22. The following day, an international seminar will be held at the Radisson hotel.
The capital will be adorned with colourful banners, festoons and flags.
Video contents and theme songs will be screened at various intersections and landmarks in the city as well as other parts of the country.