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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 02:49 GMT 03:49 UK


UN warning over world's poorest

Recent devastating floods threaten Bangladesh's economic progress

A UN report warns that recent economic progress made by the poorest countries in the world is likely to be wiped out by the double burden of natural disasters and the threat of global recession.

The report - by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, (Unctad) - says that although the 48 least-developed countries grew strongly in l997, world-wide economic conditions have deteriorated since then.

Most of the 48 states are in Africa, and in the last three to four years have shown good rates of growth.

However, falling commodity prices, bad weather conditions, reduced remittances from expatriates and reduced foreign investment have all had a serious impact.

"We anticipate the good work of the past few years is going to be dissipated," Andrew Whitley, spokesman for the UNCTAD Secretary General's Office told Reuters news agency.

The report also say the poor countries cannot afford to defend their interests in the World Trade Organisation.

The authors of the report say it is important that the 48 countries should join the World Trade Organisation as soon as possible.

They point out that only 29 were members, and of them, only two to three were able to be active in the body.

They call for help for these countries to get through the lengthy process of accession to the WTO.

Abdallah Abbas discusses the report on BBC World TV
"They shouldn't be subject to the same responsibilities as the big countries," one of the authors, Abdallah Abbas said.

He also said it was in the interests of the world trading system to enable them to integrate, rather than leaving them marginalised.

"There are obvious political and security advantages," he said.

The World Trade Organisation was established in 1995 as the successor to the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

However, critics argue that richer industrialised nations benefit far more from the WTO and trade liberalisation than less-developed countries.

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