Guinea-Bissau among leading regressing economies

Economic growth in least developed countries has increased from levels seen 10 years ago, but 13 countries led by Guinea-Bissau and the Solomon Islands had "regressing economies".

In its Least Developed Countries 2002 Report released on Wednesday, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, said Guinea-Bissau recorded a real per capita GDP growth of -7.5 percent in 1997-2000.

The UN agency said because commodity prices continued their downward trend, the dependence of LDCs on commodities had hurt their economies, except for oil-exporting countries like Equatorial Guinea, which led in GDP growth, registering an average annual rate of 16.2 percent.

UNCTAD added that an "international poverty trap" afflicts many LDCs. But rapid sustained growth was possible in such countries through more effective use of poverty reduction strategy papers, it added.

The number of people living on less than $1 a day would reach at least 420 million by 2015 if current economic trends continue, UNCTAD said adding that extreme poverty in the least developed countries had doubled over the past 30 years.

"The idealistic impulse to improve the standard of living of the poor is the right one," UNCTAD Secretary General Rubens Ricupero said. "But unless actual policy solutions are well grounded in a deep understanding of the causes of poverty and how those causes have been, and can be effectively addressed, they could end up with worse results than in the past," he added.

The report said international policy "needs to give more attention to breaking the link between primary commodity dependence, pervasive extreme poverty and unsustainable external debt" and that "policies to counter the increasing polarization of the global economy are necessary in order to reduce the socioeconomic marginalization of the poorest countries."

Details about the report: "Escaping the Poverty Trap" can be obtained from:
http://www.unctad.org