‘Bittersweet story’: Joy, pain of nations shedding UN’s poorest tag – Times of India

DOHA: There will be cheers this year in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan as it leaves the club of the world’s poorest countries, while others still have a mountain to climb.
The tiny state, famous for its Gross National Happiness Index, will become only the seventh country to graduate from the group of least developed countries established by the United Nations in 1971 on December 13.
“We take it with great honor and pride, we are not nervous,” Bhutan’s prime minister said Lotay Tshering told AFP at the LDC summit that ended in Doha on Thursday.
The leaders of all 45 other LDCs are eager to follow suit. Bangladesh, Nepal, Angola, Laos, Solomon Islands and Sao Tome will graduate by the end of 2026.
But they worry about losing the trading privileges and cheap financing that will disappear three years after they leave. Angola and the Solomon Islands have tried to delay their departure. Others could follow.
Despite his confidence, Tshering has reason to be tense.
– Proud of the game – The booming exports of hydroelectricity to the regional power plant of India have brought the per capita income of Bhutan’s 800,000 inhabitants to about $3,800 a year, 30 percent higher than that of its giant neighbor.
But the coronavirus pandemic and global inflation have pushed up spending, and the government banned foreign car imports last year to prevent money from leaving the country.
“Life is about adaptation,” Tshering said.
“It’s about losing and winning. You lose one, you win one. I think we’re going to lose because of the availability of some grants, but we’re going to be accessible to more business opportunities or more investment. It’s just a trick of the game. “
National pride is also at stake for Bangladesh, which US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called a “basket case” after its creation in 1971.
The garment industry has turned the South Asian country of 170 million into an export powerhouse, with a GDP per capita that also surpasses India.
But analysts say exports will shrink once MOL privileges disappear. And Bangladesh has sought about $5 billion in international loans over the past year to bolster its reserves.
Bangladesh Employers Federation President Ardashir Kabir said the country remains determined. “We are not afraid at all, we will generate our own resources, we will move forward.”
Losing the LDC tag creates credibility and “attracts investment from the world’s major countries,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Narayan Kaji Shrestha told AFP: “Graduating means moving up. We can’t stay under the banner of LDC forever.”
– ‘Havoc’ – To be promoted to Middle-Income Country status, candidates must pass two of three tests: earn a gross national income of more than $1,222 per year or earn solid scores for human well-being or economic vulnerability. UN committees then scrutinize cases for years.
The Maldives became one of the rare success stories in 2011.
But chairman Ibrahim Mohammed Solih told the summit it was a “bittersweet story”. Successive crises have hit the atolls that attract tourists from all over the world.
Before she graduated, the 2004 Asian tsunami was “devastating” and cost nearly 60% of GDP, Solih said.
When Covid-19 forced a near-global lockdown in 2020, it “turned a thriving upper-middle-income country into a ‘no-income country’ for three months.”
The war in Ukraine caused more “havoc” with higher commodity prices.
Solih said countries are “concerned” about leaving the club with many of the “vulnerabilities” that made them poor in the first place.
The LDCs want trade privileges to be maintained for at least six years after graduation, but wealthier countries are resisting.
East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta said the crises have “failed the banks, the rich and the powerful to think rationally that unless they all act as part of the same humanity, callousness and reckless greed will sink the global ship.”

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