Wednesday, March 30, 2011

World’s poorest countries ‘flat-lining’

30 March 2011 World’s poorest countries ‘flat-lining’ thumbnail
A mother and her daughter beg on the streets of Rangoon. Burma is among the world's least developed countries (Reuters)
Most of the world’s poorest countries got richer over the past decade but are falling further back in the global wealth ranks, a UN report said Tuesday.
At least 37 of the world’s poorest 48 nations have put on positive growth in the past decade, said the report by a group of nine “eminent persons,” including former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn and the former Mali president Alpha Oumar Konare.
But it added that the average per capita income in the poorest countries was 18 percent of the world average in 1971, but only 15 percent of that average in 2008.
The so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which range from Afghanistan, Bhutan and Burma in Asia to Senegal and Zambia in Africa, now face a widening gap with the low and lower middle income countries which are keeping up with average world income levels.
Since the early 1970s when the LDCs were first defined by the United Nations, only three nations – Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives – have battled their way out of the group.
The poorest countries are earning a lot of new wealth from commodities but not enough of the money is going back to building up their economies, the panel said in the report for a conference to be held in Istanbul on May 9-13.
“Their continuing dependence on primary commodities in general and on agriculture in particular, are key indicators of their growing marginalisation,” said the study.
In more than half of the poorest countries, the proportion of manufacturing in the total economy has fallen in the past 20 years.
The report also blamed poor education, health and nutrition and limited infrastructure as well as the over-dependence on commodity exports.
The “Compact For Inclusive Growth and Prosperity” said the countries themselves had to take on the task of negotiating better prices for their experts, combat corruption and fight for the return of stolen assets, and double their farm productivity.
The panel said the developed world had to step up aid to the poorest nations to 0.15 percent of gross national income within two years and to 0.2 percent by 2015.
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