Remarks of United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mia Seppo, at the Online Workshop on Vulnerability Profile, Helping Bangladesh make graduation a milestone of continued economic progress

Jointly organized by the Support to Sustainable Graduation Project (SSGP), ERD, Ministry of Finance, GOB and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Salutations.

This discussion is happening at a critical juncture – in about two months CDP will undertake the second triennial review of Bangladesh’s key indicators for graduation out of LDC category. We are also almost one year into a global pandemic that changed the world as we knew it.  The world has changed more in this one year than in any since the second world war. A year ago, most of the discussion on Bangladesh’s graduation was around the loss of international support measures and the consequences for exports and hence for GDP growth. Bangladesh was approached LDC graduation with cautious but can-do optimism. The webinar today and the UNCTAD Vulnerability Profile is timely as we face the challenge of planning for both inclusive and green recovery from COVID and sustainable graduation from the LDC bracket.

Let’s consider some of the changes that the global pandemic has brought.

First, global supply chains have been severely disrupted. Even after several of the vaccines under development go into production and use, it is unlikely that global patterns of trade will go back to where they were. What would it mean for Bangladesh’s trade prospects? What would it mean for Bangladesh’s patterns of industrialization?

It will be important to take a forward looking view at what the key drivers and dampeners of trade will be in the coming years and find the opportunities for Bangladesh, to identify sunrise industries that can be nurtured to drive equitable and inclusive growth that generates wage income and taxes for the government. We will also need to examine what these patterns mean for people, not just the economy.

We do not yet have the data on all the changes to the economy. What we do know is that the pattern of vulnerabilities has changed. Young people – a large demographic group and traditionally not considered vulnerable in Bangladesh – have lost months of schooling putting their learning and therefore future prospects under threat. Poverty has increased.

While Bangladesh is well ahead of the thresholds for all three LDC graduation criteria, gains in the human vulnerability index are under threat. Gains in education and health indicators might be at risk of erosion among the most vulnerable groups. We need to discuss how we preserve these gains and accelerate the move to achieving the SDGs.  

Gender-based violence has emerged as a shadow pandemic. Globally COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequalities and as a result gender-based violence has increased, especially domestic violence including rape.

In this context UNCTAD’s study with its focus on the new vulnerabilities in the country is particularly relevant and timely.

The pandemic has also revealed and deepened patterns of inequalities that go far beyond income and wealth inequality.

The digital divide for instance has worsened inequalities in access to education. One aspect of the digital divide is the gender divide – that too has worsened.

Yet, graduation out of LDC status presents its share of opportunities as well.

A history of consistently good fiscal management together with a developing economy status might increase the country’s international credit ratings, thus improving access to finance. The reset imposed by the COVID19 pandemic might offer opportunities for Bangladesh to leapfrog a few steps up international value chains by identifying and nurturing industries of the future that are both high value and green. The pandemic has shown the importance of digital connectivity in delivery of basic services, for economic activity, and for governance. Bangladesh can leverage its strengths and existing advances through the Digital Bangladesh initiative to leapfrog several stages of development in widespread digital access.

In this context, the United Nations Secretary General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation is particularly relevant. Ensuring digital inclusion and respect for digital human rights, together with leveraging human agency will be essential for Bangladesh to reap the benefits of the digital revolution equitably. Digital inclusion will also be key to ensuring financial inclusion for Bangladesh’s most vulnerable groups.

Similarly, Bangladesh can leverage its experience in managing the impact of years of natural hazards like the floods and cyclones to build up robust systems for pandemic preparedness. In this context, Bangladesh as the new chair of the Climate Vulnerability Forum will have a key role to play in influencing global discourse on both mitigation of and adaptation to the evolving climate crisis. In this forum Bangladesh will also advocate for other climate vulnerable LDCs.

The discussions today on Bangladesh’s graduation will inform key decisions and policy choices to ensure a smooth transition. This transition in turn will inform those of other LDCs as well. I welcome Bangladesh’s role as a leading advocate for sustainable graduation globally.

Many thanks for listening and looking forward to the discussion.

UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office