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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

27 April 2021

ESCAP

Excellency, Madam Fatima Yasmin, Permanent secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh,

Excellency Ambassador Mohammed Abdul Hye, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UNESCAP,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to this Commission side-event on “Sustainable Graduation in the Challenging Time: Perspectives from Bangladesh and the Region” organized by the Government of Bangladesh.

I would like to start by congratulating the Government of Bangladesh for successfully meeting the criteria for graduation from least developed status for the second time at the review of the Committee for Development Policy in February 2021.

The remarkable development success of LDCs in our region is highlighted by the fact that Vanuatu graduated from the group in December 2020 and Bhutan and Solomon Islands are scheduled to graduate in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal are also expected to leave or graduate the group in 2026, while several others are also expected to graduate before 2030.

Indeed, of the 46 LDCs globally, 16 are already on the graduation pipeline.

Of the 16 countries, 10 are from our region, Asia-Pacific region, including Cambodia that met the criteria for the first time in 2021. By the end of this decade, almost all LDCs in our region may have graduated. This is clearly a sign of the development success of these countries.

Nevertheless, LDCs must prepare well for their graduation as they will lose preferential access to international support measures (ISMs).

They will have to deal with a gradual withdrawal of duty-free quota-free access to markets and a termination of certain concessional financing.

Doing so may be a particularly daunting task for LDCs when considering the adverse impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic for now and for many years to come.

Excellencies,

In our upcoming report, the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report, we find that the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionally large in Asia-Pacific LDCs even though the number of COVID-19 cases reported are quite low. .

This is because high external dependence and low levels of resilience to external shocks have exacerbated the impacts of the pandemic.

In light of these challenges, preparations for graduation must acquire a much more holistic focus on sustainability.

We must acknowledge that economic growth alone is not sufficient.

Here, strengthening productive capacity and promoting economic diversification will play an important role in ensuring that development progress is sustained beyond graduation.

It will also be critical to achieve economic resilience, especially as many LDCs are too dependent on single economic sectors.

These should not only continue to include duty-free quota-free access for exports from LDCs and preferential access to concessional finance.

To ensure a smooth transition, an enhanced and extended support mechanism or ISMs could also be considered for graduating LDCs.

Excellencies and colleagues,

This side event is a great opportunity to hear perspectives from Asia-Pacific LDCs as well as the international community, including OECD and other UN agencies.

For your information, one of the main sessions of the Commission tomorrow, the Special Body will convene on LDCs, LLDCs and SIDs. This year’s report for the Special body will focus on LDCs.

I would encourage everyone here to participate in that event tomorrow.

Excellencies,

ESCAP is already engaged with LDC Governments in the region. Now we are working closely with the Government of Bangladesh to jointly organize the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs in June this year.

We stand ready to use all possible means to assist graduating countries in better understanding the graduation process and plan for a smooth transition.

Again, congratulate the Government of Bangladesh on your achievements.

Thank you very much.

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