Bangkok: The Maldives was set to rise from its status as a least-developed country in January with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar expected to follow in its footsteps soon, a senior UN economist said Friday.
The United Nations classifies the world's 49 least-developed countries as those with the lowest personal incomes, poor human resources and the greatest vulnerability to economic trends such as globalisation. Over the past 30 years, only Botswana and Cape Verde have managed to graduate from this status, but more graduates are in the making.
The Maldives would be the next, said Nagesh Kumar, chief economist for the UN's Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific.
Samoa was also scheduled for graduation next year, but the status change has been postponed until 2014 because of setbacks caused by natural disasters this year, Kumar said.
Most of the world's least-developed countries are in Africa and 15 are in the Asia-Pacific.
Those in Asia have benefited from economic "connectivity" with their more dynamic neighbours through such frameworks as the free trade agreement implemented by the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, because of the increasing connectivity of the ASEAN countries, are beginning to get into good growth and development, so it should be possible for them to graduate in a few years," Kumar said. All three countries are members of ASEAN.
Some of the countries neighbouring India, such as Bhutan and Bangladesh, have likewise benefited from India's dramatic growth in recent years, he said.
"Bhutan has been able to grow very fast in the past 10 years because of hydroelectric exports to India," Kumar said. "Now Bhutan has an even higher per-capita income than India."
The UN is to host a conference on setting up a new development architecture for the least-developed countries in May in Istanbul. (earthtimes.org)