Vanuatu's Graduation Vanuatu is a southwestern Pacific Ocean country made up of about 80 islands with a small population of around 300,000. Vanuatu has recently graduated from the list of least developed countries (LDC) despite setbacks due to ongoing natural disasters and other factors. Vanuatu’s graduation from LDC status took place on December 4, 2020. It was first recognized as an LDC in 1985.

What is the Least Developed Country List?

Less developed countries are countries that struggle with maintaining sustainable development, causing them to be low-income countries. In 1971, The United Nations created a category list of the least developed countries in the world. The United Nations reviews and checks the list every three years based on the country’s economic vulnerability, income per capita and human assets. There are currently about 46 countries on the least developed country list. Angola is another country that will be scheduled for its graduation in 2021. Vanuatu has recently joined the five other countries that were able to graduate since the creation of the least developed country list.

Although less developed countries are economically vulnerable, they receive special international aid to help with creating sustainable development. These countries also have specific trade with other nations that are not accessible to more developed nations. This is why less-developed nations are sometimes referred to as “emerging markets.” The majority of the support that countries in the least developed countries list receive is either directly from or set up by the U.N. Committee for Development Policy.

The Success Behind Vanuatu’s Graduation

Vanuatu graduates form the least developed country list despite major setbacks due to climate change, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other countries that graduated, most of Vanuatu’s success is as a result of the international aid which enabled the country’s stable economic growth. In addition to the aid, Vanuatu has also had success in its strong agriculture sector. The increased diversification in agricultural crops and stocks has helped with the per capita income and human assets criteria for the least developed countries list.

When it comes to the economic vulnerability criteria, Vanuatu is still at risk despite graduating. The risk of economic vulnerability stems from the prevalent natural disasters. Even though the country has shown consistent economic growth, the external shocks from natural disasters are out of the country’s control as it faces about two to three disasters a year. However, there is still a great chance that Vanuatu will have continued success in maintaining sustainable development.

Maintaining Sustainable Development

The most well-known source of maintaining sustainable development for less developed countries is through international aid. Even though Vanuatu has graduated from the least developed country list, the country still is able to receive aid and continue its trading relationships with countries it was given priority to when classified as a less developed nation. For instance, Vanuatu had still received $10 million in emergency aid from the World Bank organization. The funding was for the impact that both COVID-19 and a tropical cyclone had on Vanuatu earlier in 2020.

Significant Success for Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s graduation from the least developed country list is a significant achievement that demonstrates the country’s ability to maintain consistency in its economic growth, while also overcoming challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Although the graduation signifies major growth, there is still more economic stability that is needed before the country can significantly reduce its economic vulnerability.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu's Graduation From the LDCsSince the United Nations created the least developed countries (LDCs) list in the 1970s, only six nations have moved off of the list to a higher ranking of development. Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, became the sixth country to do so on December 4, 2020, after being designated an LDC in 1985. Vanuatu’s graduation from the LDCs list can serve as a beacon of hope for more LDCs to achieve higher rates of development.

Economic Growth

The U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) identifies LDCs based on their level of human assets, environmental and economic vulnerability and per capita income. Since 1991, Vanuatu has met the CDP’s income per capita threshold and was recommended for graduation in 2012, having more than twice the income per capita threshold and also meeting the threshold for human assets. In an effort to pursue graduation, Vanuatu began shifting its economic policies to decrease reliance on imports, increase exports and create employment and income-generating opportunities. Vanuatu’s rural economy grew after improvements in the livestock sector in addition to the country’s diversification of agricultural activities to include timber, kava, coconut oil and copra. The tourism industry and real estate investments were also an aid to Vanuatu’s economic growth as income per person increased by more than 2.5 times between 2002 and 2017.

Vanuatu’s Setbacks

Throughout Vanuatu’s progress in economically developing the country, the nation has also been stymied by recurring natural disasters. The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development estimates that Vanuatu is affected by an average of two to three natural disasters per year and noted that Vanuatu is uniquely affected by natural disasters as its size causes the entirety of the country to be affected as opposed to just specific regions. In 2015, Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 cyclone that destroyed 50-90% of the country’s shelters and 95% of crops. Cyclone Pam delayed Vanuatu’s previous progress toward graduation and warranted an extension of the country’s grace period to 2020. Additionally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decrease in the country’s tourism industry. While Vanuatu’s first case of COVID-19 was reported only in November 2020, the pandemic has impacted the nation and its economic sectors.

A Pathway for LDCs

While Vanuatu is the third country in the Asia-Pacific region to graduate from LDC status, following Samoa in 2014 and the Maldives in 2011, it is only the sixth country to graduate overall. On track to move up from LDC status are Angola in 2021, Bhutan in 2023 and São Tomé and Príncipe and the Solomon Islands both in 2024. Vanuatu’s graduation can bring hope to the other 46 countries on the LDC list, especially given the global circumstances in which Vanuatu achieved this feat. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively stalled worldwide markets and further excluded many LDCs from international supply chains. With the encouragement of Vanuatu’s graduation from the LDCs list during a global pandemic, hope for the four countries scheduled for graduation in the near future increases alongside support from the international community to ensure an eventual zero countries on the LDCs list.

Caroline Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed CountriesThe European Union (EU), comprised of its 27 member states, is the biggest economy in the world. As such, the EU is the biggest exporter and importer of goods and services provided by third parties (non-union members). On the other end of the spectrum, the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) account for only 2% of the global economy and only 1% of global trade in goods and services. The EU’s social policies have always been supportive of these LDCs. Yet, they acknowledge that economic policies and opportunities are most effective in supporting these countries. Even though the LDCs function in the global economy, they struggle with exports (while obtaining the full benefits). Because of this, the EU began allocating resources to help these countries. The EU also opens the European market to their products and services. Here are 10 ways the EU supports Least Developed Countries.

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed Countries

  1. No Customs Taxes, No Quotas: LDCs exporters are not taxed when accessing the EU market. There are no limits on how much LDCs can export to member states without this taxation. This applies to all products or services, as long as it complies with the EU’s quality standards. The only exception is the trade of arms and ammunition.
  2. EU Aid for Least Developed Countries: The EU encourages the LDCs to increase exports and production by investing in their local economies. The Aid for Trade is the EU’s stimulus for the LDCs to take on infrastructural projects such as roads, bridges and ports. It is believed this aid helps the countries develop further and become more competitive.
  3. Least Developed Countries Get Complimentary Access to the EU Market: The EU’s trade policy for LDCs differs from other developing countries. In some cases, it is even more accommodating than their partnerships with traditional allies. By giving LDCs uninhibited access, the EU is providing a competitive advantage over other third parties. This way, LDCs have more opportunities to trade with the EU than stronger economies. Hence, this gives them a better chance to grow.
  4. Full Access for Services: The EU makes it easy for companies in the LDCs to sell innovative services. For example, engineering, management advising and IT. There is dual reasoning behind this policy. First, it creates a more competitive market. Second, it helps LDCs enhance their local technology and engineering service sectors.
  5. Opt-out from World Trade Organization’s Patents: The EU created unique policies that apply only to LDCs to encourage innovation. The LDCs may request an opt-out from the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on intellectual property. This could include things like expensive patents or designs. These things can block their developmental progress. Further, the EU gives LDCs access to otherwise patent-shielded drugs, to ensure that people have access to the medications they need.
  6. Governmental Support and Counseling: The EU supports the LDCs’ governments, so they can make trade a central part of their national agenda and plan to develop their economies. As part of this effort in 2015, the EU pledged €10m to a program designed and guided by top European economists.
  7. No More Unfair Competition Among Farmers: Subsidizing local farmers to export is a common practice around the world. As a result, farmers in weaker states struggle to compete; sometimes they even declare bankruptcies. In 2015, the EU and Brazil discussed a new deal with the WTO. This deal would scrap the unfair practices and export subsidies to farmers. The deal is still in process, but it hides an excellent premise for all the LDCs that would profit from it on the background.
  8. Backing the Fair Trade: EU trade deals with the LDCs that specially designed products to promote fair and ethical trade of products. This includes cocoa, coffee, fruits and other foods; these products are mainly supplied from these countries. Additionally, the EU supports the LDCs by partnering with the International Trade Centre. It invests in projects like 1 RUN that trains small-scale farmers in the LDCs to produce their crops more sustainably.
  9. The Trade Facilitation Agreement: The EU is the loudest supporter and promoter of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It will make it much more manageable and more affordable to clear goods through customhouses – giving crucial administrative relief to exporters from the world’s poorest countries.
  10. EU Supports the Least Developed Countries on the World Stage: The Union is a prominent member of the world’s international organizations, including the WTO, the UN, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In each one, the EU prioritizes the needs of the Least Developed Countries and encourages other members to open up their markets and provide finance to help their advancement.

 – Olga Uzunova

Photo: Pexels