GENEVA – The planet’s poorest countries are falling further behind the rest of the world and cannot catch up without more aid and favourable trade deals, a UN report said.
In the 45 years since the United Nations created its list of Least Developed Countries (LDC), only four have graduated from the impoverished group: Botswana, Cape Verde, Maldives and Samoa.
Efforts to boost economic development in the remaining 48 LDCs have been "glacial", the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its annual report on the world’s poorest nations.
Nearly half of the global poor – currently defined as people living on less than US$1.90 per day – live in the 48 most impoverished countries, a rate that has more than doubled since 1990, UNCTAD said.
UNCTAD warned that these four dozen nations were caught in "vicious circle" in which their sustained poverty was increasingly hampering their ability to lift themselves up on their own.
"Countries can only break out of such vicious circles with international support in finance, trade and technology," the agency said in a statement.
The report projects that only three countries – Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Vanuatu – are on track to rise out of the LDC category in the coming years, but even there the story is mixed.
Two of those three – Angola and Equatorial Guinea – have seen gross national income rise thanks to oil wealth, but the benefits of energy revenues have not been spread across the population.
Specifically in Equatorial Guinea, the profits of oil production have largely been shared among the ruling family, according to multiple human rights reports.
UNCTAD chief Mukhisa Kituyi therefore stressed that graduation from the poorest nation category is not, in itself, a mark of progress.
"How a country graduates is just as important as when it graduates," he said in a statement.
The current list of least developed countries includes 34 African nations, nine in Asia, four in the Pacific region as well as Haiti. — AFP