Investing in agriculture and expanding the industrial base of the world’s least developed countries are crucial to achieving economic progress and the raising the living standards in those nations, the head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting the integration of poorer States into the world economy said today.
Supachai Panitchpakdi, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), told reporters in Turkey that the global economic boom from 2002 to 2007 resulted in economic growth in the least developed countries (LDCs) of some 7 per cent per year on average.
However, growth was anchored on the extractive industries, which did not create jobs or help LDCs to broaden their economies and spread the profits more widely to populations, Mr. Supachai said, speaking on the sidelines of the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs under way in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The lack of attention to agriculture in poor countries has resulted in stagnation in the vital economic sector in recent decades, despite the fact that farming is still the greatest source of employment in LDCs, Mr. Supachai said.
The total labour force in LDCs is expected to increase by 10.2 million people per year between 2005 and 2015 and unless the young populations can find productive work, poverty and frustration will increase, as will the already significant pressure for international migration, he added.
He called for a shift away from dependence by LDCs on exporting raw industrial materials and other commodities and a focus on manufacturing and related activities that progressively add value to goods produced.
Value-added products bring higher profits, create more and better-paying jobs, and generate employment, while reducing vulnerabilities related to abrupt fluctuation of commodity prices in global markets.