Seven Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are ‘catching up’ in the 50 years since the establishment of the category by the United Nations (UN) in 1971, according to the UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2021.

“Over the past 50 years, only a handful of today’s LDCs (namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Mali and Myanmar) have consistently outpaced the world average GDP per capita growth by more than one per cent,” according to UNCTAD’s LDCs Report 2021.

The report, released on Monday (September 27) evening in Geneva, said the LDCs whose long-term growth rate of per capita income has exceeded the world’s weighted average by more than one percentage point is termed as ‘catching up’.

The report grouped the LDCs into the three categories: ‘falling behind’, ‘muddling through’ and ‘catching up.’

The countries whose long-term Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita growth rate is lower by more than one percentage point than the world’s weighted average is labelled as ‘falling behind.’

The countries whose GDP per capita growth rate has fallen within the band defined by the world’s average of ± 1.0 per cent are ‘muddling through.’

The UN established the LDC category 50 years ago. The grouping of the world’s weakest economies has increased from 25 countries in 1971, peaking at 52 in 1991, and stands at 46 today with only six countries graduating from being an LDC to date.

The report mentioned that worldwide growth accelerations have been three times as frequent as decelerations between 197 and 2019 and, LDCs stand out for having experienced growth collapses far more frequently than other countries.

“Compared to other country groups, on average, LDCs have tended to enjoy slower growth accelerations and suffer slightly more severe decelerations,” said the report.

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The report also said that If all individual LDCs had at least one instance of growth acceleration (which by construction lasted at least three years), the most successful LDCs spent a considerable number of years in this condition (the maximum being 19 years in the case of Cambodia).

Many of these LDCs are in the “catching up” category namely Bhutan, Cambodia, Lesotho and Mali.

“It is worth noting, however, that the occurrence of accelerations explains only one facet of the catching-up process: other LDCs that were deemed to be “catching up”, e.g. Bangladesh or Myanmar, did not benefit from long spells of accelerated growth, but recorded an overall higher long-term growth trend,” observed the report.


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