Rich countries must help Bangladesh cope with price shocks, says top UN official

Rich countries must help Bangladesh cope with price shocks, says top UN official

Bangladesh needs more support from the international community, including oil-rich countries, to cope with the sharp global rise in prices for food and energy, the head of the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP) said today.

“The real issue is protecting the vulnerable from these shocks,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis, who just completed a three-day visit to the South Asian country. “The international community cannot leave these huge world events unattended.”

UNDP said that roughly 40 per cent of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line and poor households spend nearly 70 per cent of their income on food items, the cost of which rose 16 per cent in 2007, with the price of staples such as rice and oil climbing even sharper.

In addition to the global spike in prices, the situation in Bangladesh was exacerbated by two devastating floods and Cyclone Sidr, which decimated crops last year, UNDP said.

Another factor that makes assistance to Bangladesh crucial is the political climate, Mr. Dervis maintained. “It is determined to build stronger democratic institutions and deeper practices of democracy,” he said.

“A successful democratic Bangladesh that can overcome political and economic difficulties is an example to other lower income countries, to the Muslim world, and many other countries facing similar problems,” he added.