The prosperity gap

-File Photo


WEB DESK: Addressing the Group of 77 and China Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 14th session of UNCTAD in Nairobi, Federal Minister of Commerce, Khurram Dastgir was expected to plead the case of developing countries which he tried to do in a befitting manner by urging upon the developed nations to pursue more inclusive policies so that prosperity gap between the developing and developed nations could be bridged in the foreseeable future.

Dwelling on the issues resulting in rising inequalities, the Minister said that unequal participation of developing countries in international economic and financial decision-making, commodity dependence, debt overhangs, lack of access to required technologies and unilateral coercive measures were some of the long standing challenges which continue to impede developing countries’ efforts to embark on a sustained growth trajectory. Introduction of more complex techniques in production, robotics and artificial intelligence could have negative implications for the organisation of global value chains, trade flows and employment prospects in many developing countries. As for UNCTAD, it should continue its work in all the three areas of its mandate, which are consensus building, policy advice and technical assistance.

The participants of the meeting were advised to establish new and specialised working groups of UNCTAD to initiate work on certain emerging issues which could benefit the cause of developing countries. Khurram Dastgir also emphasised the importance for G-77 and China to jointly strive for a balanced, action-oriented outcome that may be taken by the Group to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to negotiate more effectively on trade and economic issues. Analytical output of UNCTAD may also be enhanced by establishing a Trust Fund which should be earmarked for research and analysis on issues of urgent concern to developing countries.

We feel that the statement of Dastgir and the issues raised by him at the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 and China are quite pertinent and make ample sense. In fact, these issues are usually highlighted at almost all the forums meant to air the views of developing countries on the global financial and trade regime.

From the developing countries’ perspective, it would be very desirable to bridge the widening gap between the developed and developing countries, ensure equal participation in international economic and financial decision-making, reduce commodity dependence and debt overhangs and ensure easy access to new technologies. Such steps would of course accelerate the process of development in the developing countries and give them an equal opportunity in economic decision-making processes on the global scene.

The minister was also right in urging upon the Ministerial Meeting and UNCTAD to take the lead and negotiate more effectively with the developed countries to recognize their due status in the world economic order. However, seen closely, although all the developing countries would agree with the observations and proposals of Dastgir, such a one-sided approach has not helped in drawing the required response from the group of developed countries nor are these countries likely to give any attention to the entreaties of our Minister of Commerce in Nairobi. For instance, developed nations would never pursue inclusive policies with the specific objective of enabling the developing countries to bridge the gap between the two types of countries.

Whichever country has joined the ranks of developed countries has done it with hard work and by pursuing the right policies and utilising its full potential with the right kind of technologies. Equal participation in economic decision-making is a kind of dream of the developing countries which will never come true. Policies in the multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank would always be dictated by the larger shareholders who happen to be the developed countries due to their economic strength.

Debt overhangs would always continue to be a big problem due to tendency of the developing countries to borrow more to finance their C/A and budget deficits. Overall, however, we will be happy if our Commerce Minister’s suggestions are listened to properly in the relevant circles but most of these proposals have been voiced so many times at various forums that they don’t make the needed impact anymore. Besides, we need to acknowledge that this is not an ideal world and the developed countries generally turn a deaf ear to the pleas of developing countries to treat them as equal partners in the comity of nations.

Source: Business Recorder