Myanmar aims to leave LDC status behind by 2021

NAY PYI TAW — Myanmar should graduate from the United Nations-designated least developed country (LDC) status by 2021, at the earliest, a senior minister told Parliament on Tuesday.

Dr Kan Zaw, Union Minister for National Planning and Economic Development, told the 13th session of parliament that after joining the LDC grouping in 1987 Myanmar had already exceeded two out of three criteria for the UN ranking, and should shed the status by fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.

“We would be out of LDC only by (fiscal) 2020-21 at the earliest,” he said, responding to a question from Lower House Member of Parliament U Thein Aung, of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Myanmar applied for and was granted LDC status in 1987, a national humiliation that helped to spark the anti-military protests of 1988 that led to the resignation of former strongman U Ne Win and the abandonment of the socialist system.

LDC status allows countries to write off their debt to creditor governments and receive interest-free overseas aid in areas such as health, education, social welfare and development.

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But Myanmar benefitted little from its LDC because of sanctions imposed on the country for nearly two decades following the government’s brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1988.

“Sanctions were imposed in late 1988, so in spite of LDC we did not get any help,” Dr Kan Zaw said. “Some counties don’t try to get out off the LDC list because they get a lot of aid.”

There are currently 44 countries on the LDC list. Only four countries have graduated off the list since it was introduced by the UN in 1960.

To graduate from the list a country must have a per capita Gross National Income exceeding USD 1,242.00, achieve certain levels in the Human Development Index and lessen economic vulnerabilities in agricultural production and exports.

Dr Kan Zaw said Myanmar had already exceeded the GNI and HNI requirements and should exceed the third by 2021. The UN Committee for Development Policy checks on LDC criteria every three years and should next visit Myanmar in 2017/18.

“We and Laos should be free from LDC by 2020-21,” he said. Myanmar and Laos are the only members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the LDC list.

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