A new UN review suggests that Bangladesh will graduate out of the least developed countries (LDCs) list in 2024, if it focuses on human resource development.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) launched the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) 2015 report, and urged all not to confuse this with Bangladesh’s present economic status of a lower-middle income country.
“In LDCs there are high income countries like Equatorial Guinea which has annual per capita income of $16,089. Other indexes are considered if a country has to graduate from LDC,” CPD Distinguished Fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said.
“At least two of the three criteria—income, human asset index and economic vulnerability index (EVI)—must be fulfilled (to graduate from the LDCs),” he said at a briefing on Thursday while launching the UN report on LDCs.
It says Bhutan and Nepal had already achieved the minimum two criteria to come out of the LDCs.
According to the report, Bangladesh has achieved the EVI and is not far behind the human asset index closely. Its per capita income is shown as $926, which is far below the required $1,242 to achieve the income index.
Though the current per capita income is $1,100 in Bangladesh, this triennial UN report traditionally average the previous three years statistics. So the figure of $926 as the country’s per capita represents an average of the last three years.
The next review in 2018 will use the statistics of the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“We have already achieved one of the criteria in this (2015) report. The human asset criteria can be reached by 2018 easily,” said CPD Research Fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan while presenting the paper.
“If the two consecutive triennial reviews meet at least two of the three criteria, then a country can normally qualify for graduation from the LDC status.
“So, if Bangladesh achieves the two criteria, it will be listed for graduation in the 2021 review. For the next three years, it will be under observation. So, we will finally graduate in 2024,” Khan said.
He said even after graduation a country still enjoys LDC privileges for another three years.
Being a LDC, a country gets duty free market access in developed countries, technical assistance, and flexibility in international treaties, among other benefits.
CPD Distinguished fellow Bhattacharya, however, said “business as usual would not work”. He suggested investments in health and education for improving human asset index. As Bangladesh has already achieved the lower-middle-income status before the government’s target date 2021, some politicians have begun to say that the country will now become ‘high middle-income country’ by 2021.
“Higher middle-income country by 2021 can be good as political slogan, but it is not feasible in reality,” said Bhattacharya.
He said to be a higher-middle income country Bangladesh’s current per capita income must be raised to $4,125 by 2021 from the current level of $1,100.
“It will require 40 to 50 percent growth per year which is not possible,” he said, adding: “There is nothing in between lower-middle-income and higher-middle-income status”.
The report came after the new SDGs said that rural development was the key to meeting the new sustainable development goals in all LDCs.
It also pointed out the fact that poverty must be eliminated from the LDCs if the world wants to poverty free world by 2030 as envisaged by the SDGs.
The report says the LDCs are “the battleground on which the SDGs will be won or lost”.
It also stressed on “poverty-oriented structural transformation” of rural economies that would require agricultural upgrading, diversification in production and non-farm activities and fully exploiting the synergies between the two.
The report also shows that Bangladesh is listed at the top in the agricultural land productivity, but ranks 20 in agricultural labour productivity.