GENEVA — The number of very poor countries has doubled in the last 30 to 40 years, while the number of people living in extreme poverty has also grown two-fold, a UN think-tank warned Thursday.
In its annual report on the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) in the world, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that the model of development that has prevailed to date for these countries has failed and should be re-assessed.
“The traditional models that have been applied to LDCs that tend to move the LDCs in the direction of trade-related growth seem not to have done very well,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary general of UNCTAD.
“What happened is that in the past 30-40 years, the number of LDCs have doubled so it has actually deteriorated, the number of people living under the poverty line has doubled from the 1980s.”
The report indicated that the situation has sharply deteriorated in the past few years.
The number of individuals living in extreme poverty “increased by three million per year during the boom years of 2002 and 2007,” reaching 421 million people in 2007.
While these countries proved somewhat resilient during the crisis, they are nevertheless very fragile, notably due to their dependence on imports.
“The import dependence has become quite devastating, the expenditure for LDCs on food imports rose from 9 billion dollars in 2002 to 23 billion in 2008,” noted Supachai.
In addition, the economies in these countries are little diversified, with very weak improvements in domestic savings, a strong reliance on external savings and a faster depletion of natural resources, said UNCTAD.
“All these shortcomings are now hindering the nations’ post-recession development prospects,” it warned, calling on the countries to adopt a new structure of development.