Govt Forms Committee to Rid Burma of Least Developed Country Status

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 September 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The government has formed an implementation committee to rid Burma of its least developed country (LDC) status, Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win told the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday.

The implementation committee chaired by Vice President Henry Van Thio was formed in late April, just weeks after the National League for Democracy (NLD) government took office after winning a landslide victory in the November 2015 general election.

There are certain advantages to a least developed country label. Those performing at the bottom of socioeconomic evaluations have access to preferential trade arrangements, duty-free imports, interest-free financial aid, official development assistance and debt forgiveness.

Although Burma applied for and received LDC status in 1987 under the reign of dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Program Party, any potential benefits were largely eclipsed by economic sanctions imposed shortly after.

To graduate from the status, LDCs must surpass thresholds for two of three indicators: per capita gross national income, economic vulnerabilities, and a human resource weakness index based on child mortality, health, nutrition and education. Countries are re-evaluated every three years and must exceed the criteria in two consecutive reviews.

The United Nations (UN) conducted its triennial review in 2015 and Burma was unable to surpass the graduation requirements, exceeding only the Human Asset Index (HAI) 66-or-above threshold with a score of 72.7.

The country’s per capita gross national income stood at US$1,063—below the $1,242 threshold, according to the deputy minister. Burma’s next review will take place in 2018.

Only five countries have graduated to “developing country” status since the UN ranked the first group in 1971. Samoa was the last country to have been promoted, in 2014. Currently, 48 countries are on the LDC list; among them are three Asean members—Cambodia, Laos and Burma.