Vital ingredients

The report titled ‘Voices of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Asia and the Pacific,’ released jointly by UNDP and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, is a pointer to Nepal’s unenviable economic state. Nepal falls below the overall averages of the LDCs in the Asia-Pacific region on several counts. Its GDP per capita, at $233, for example, compares poorly with the average of $513 for the region and with $310 for other LDCs. The report states that the LDCs of the region suffer disproportionately from poverty. What is particularly worrisome is the fact that the imbalance is widening because the region’s LDCs receive much less international assistance per capita than the LDCs of the other regions. Though a host of factors explain Nepal’s underdevelopment, this reality may well have affected its lack of desired progress, including that towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The rapid rates of growth in China, India and the East Asian tigers cannot, however, compensate for the extreme poverty prevailing in other states of the region. This stresses the need for larger global support in order that the LDCs are able to achieve MDGs. In countries like Nepal, marred by bloody and widespread insurgency, the need assumes even greater urgency. Besides, those LDCs face such other problems as cross-border migration, human trafficking, drug trafficking, trans-boundary spread of diseases, spillover of conflicts and environmental hazards.

Admittedly, increased global aid alone is not enough. Those at the helm must therefore realise the importance of good governance, efficient institutions and MDG-friendly policies. These ingredients are essential for attracting more foreign direct investment and enhanced donor support. Rich nations have also a debt relief policy, which does not, however, accord an eligibility status to countries like Nepal, though they too deserve priority treatment. Besides, landlocked nations face some other barriers to development. So they also need preferential trade and market access. If the Millennium Plus Five summit, scheduled in New York for next month, could take some concrete measures in this direction, it would give the campaign for reducing global poverty the much-needed shot in the arm.