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More than 100(*) students and lecturers from Vi Colombian member universities, EAFIT, EAN, Santo Tomás and La Salle, gathered for a videoconference presentation of UNCTAD's The Least Developed Countries Report 2014 February 23.

The report was presented by its co-author and coordinator, Rolf Traeger, Chief of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Section at UNCTAD.

"Our findings identify a trend we labeled 'the LDC paradox': even though these countries grew at accelerated rates in the 2000s, they did not fully achieve their development goals because of the lack of structural transformation," he said.

According to the report, LDCs as a group will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but Traeger cautioned against dismissing the substantive, if insufficient, progress made by these countries in terms of health, education, nutrition and child mortality, among other dimensions of human development. LDCs lowered their poverty rate on average from 65 percent in 1991 to 45 percent in 2011. However, the report stresses the dissimilar and relatively poorer performance of African and island economies compared to Asian countries within the group.

 

The little emphasis placed on economic development by the MDGs might have reinforced the vicious cycle of low economic development and low human development of many LDCs, he explained. The proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in turn, make room for a complementary emphasis on both human development and economic development within a holistic vision of development.

"There were both domestic and international factors jeopardizing LDCs’ pursuit of MDGs,” Traeger said. “Domestically, the main problem was the inability of LDCs to translate accelerated economic growth into structural transformation which brings decent and productive jobs."

Findings of the report indicate that a large agricultural sector which is not properly developed may have negative implications for average productivity growth. Therefore, effective structural transformation requires a shift of the working population from the agricultural sector to the manufacturing sector and modern services, where productivity achieves higher rates of growth.

“LDCs still benefit from the so called 'demographic bonus,' with a large share of young population, but this  also presents the challenge of generating quality and productive jobs for this portion of the working force,” he added.

(*)  53 from EAFIT; 10 from EAN, 40 from Santo Tomas, 12 from La Salle.

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