Least Developed Countries Report

2225-1723 (online)
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UNCTAD´s Least Developed Countries Report provides a comprehensive and authoritative source of socio-economic analysis and data on the world´s most impoverished countries. The Report is intended for a broad readership of governments, policy makers, researchers and all those involved with LDCs´ development policies. Each Report contains a statistical annex, which provides basic data on the LDCs.
Also available in Spanish, French
The Least Developed Countries Report 2009

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15 Aug 2009
9789210543262 (PDF)

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The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are a group of countries that have been classified by the United Nations as least developed in terms of their low GDP per capita, their weak human assets and their high degree of economic vulnerability. This Report argues that the impact of the global economic crisis is likely to be so severe in LDCs that “business as usual” is no longer possible. The crisis offers the necessity and opportunity for change. The Report sketches out a concrete, alternative economic strategy and a fresh agenda for LDC policymakers, which includes institutional capacity-building and the strengthening of the market-complementing developmental State.

Also available in French, Spanish
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  • What are the least developed countries?
    Forty-nine countries are currently designated by the United Nations as “least developed countries” (LDCs). These are: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Yemen and Zambia.
  • Acknowledgements
    The Least Developed Countries Report 2009 was prepared by a team consisting of Zeljka Kozul-Wright (team leader), Alberto Amurgo Pacheco (until February 2009), Agnès Collardeau-Angleys, Junior Davis, Marwan El Khoury (until March 2009), Madasamyraja Rajalingam, Rolf Traeger, Giovanni Valensisi (from March 2009) and Stefanie West. Nancy Biersteker, Lisa Borgatti, Pierre Encontre, Charles Gore, Massimiliano La Marca, Terry McKinley (consultant) and Paul Rayment (consultant) also made specific inputs to the Report. Simona Foltyn participated in the final stage of preparing the Report. The work was carried out under the overall supervision of Habib Ouane, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes (ALDC), and Charles Gore, Head, Research and Policy Analysis Branch, ALDC.
  • Abbreviations
  • Overview
    The Least Developed Countries Report 2009 argues that the impact of the global economic crisis is likely to be so severe in the least developed countries (LDCs) that “business as usual” is no longer possible. This will necessitate a rethinking of the development paradigm. The magnitude of the crisis offers both the necessity and an opportunity for change. Coping with the impact of the crisis in LDCs will require an innovative and informed policy design response. But beyond this, new policy approaches are necessary to ensure that development after the crisis will be more resilient and more inclusive.
  • Introduction - The implications of the global economic crisis for LDCs
    The current economic crisis is the result of weaknesses in the neoliberal thinking that has shaped global economic policies in the last three decades; weaknesses that have been magnified by policy failures and lax regulation in the advanced countries. The cost in terms of the bailouts and recapitalization of banks has already reached unprecedented levels. However, the adverse impact on the real economy and the cost in terms of lost output and employment are now the great concerns. Most advanced economies are in recession and emerging markets have slowed. But the major victims of this contagion are likely to be the least developed countries (LDCs), many of which are still suffering the adverse impact of recent energy and food crises (UNCTAD, 2008a) and have the least capacity to cope with yet another major external shock.
  • Rethinking the role of the state in LDCs - Towards development governance
    The current financial crisis has given added urgency to a reconsideration of the potential for new roles and functions for the State in the current global context. This chapter examines what this might mean in general terms for the least developed countries (LDCs). Its central argument is that the LDCs should pursue good development governance and that with this in view they should seek to build developmental State capabilities.
  • Meeting the macroeconomic challenges
    As discussed in the introduction to this Report, least developed countries (LDCs) are going to be severely affected by the current global financial crisis and global recession. The main channel of impact is not likely to be through the financial system, as LDCs’ financial sectors are weak and not tightly integrated with those of advanced countries, and they receive only modest inflows of private financial capital. However, LDCs are bound to be adversely — though differentially — affected by the slowdown in the real global economy, particularly through falling export revenues and declining workers’ remittances, as well as falling inflows of net private capital, particularly foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • Setting the agenda for agricultural policy in LDCs
    For many least developed countries (LDCs), food security1 remains a major priority and policy objective. The global food crisis that erupted in the spring of 2008 served to highlight food insecurity as one of the most fundamental constraints on growth and development in LDCs. The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that the price hikes between late 2007 and the middle of 2008 resulted in an additional 100 million people having inadequate access to food. For LDCs, the impact of the food crisis has been exacerbated by the current global financial crisis and the damaging consequences of climate change, which, in turn, have led to a disturbing trend towards purchasing land for outsourced food production by non-LDC States. Most LDCs face multiple challenges, such as the global fragility of multilateral trade, volatility of growth, liquidity and credit shortages, and vulnerability to natural disasters.2 Improved food security in LDCs could be realized through a combination of policies and measures, including the provision or enhancement of basic infrastructure, and the adoption of improved food production technologies and farming techniques.
  • Tailoring industrial policy to LDCs
    Least developed countries (LDCs) are currently looking for a combination of effective macroeconomic policy measures and international financial support to limit the damage they face from the economic crisis. However, they must also look to ways of reducing their vulnerability to future shocks. In this respect, industrial policy, as broadly defined in this Report, will have to play a critical role. In particular, building a more diversified economic structure remains the surest way of reducing vulnerability to shocks and ensuring more rapid recovery once a shock has hit. Moreover, the simultaneous effort to raise investment levels, build new backward and forward linkages across the economy, and upgrade technological capacity — which is at the heart of the industrial policy challenge — is intimately connected to promoting a more strategic integration into the world economy that can ensure more reliable sources of foreign exchange and avoid the economic dangers of the lopsided reliance on private capital flows that has been exposed by the current crisis. However, shrinking policy space can jeopardize efforts at autonomous policymaking and impede an effective policy response.
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