10 March 2014

Least Developed Countries List

Ethiopia and Laos, PDR, the two countries that I conducted research in for my dissertation, are on the United Nations Least Developed Countries list. This is a list collected on the world's poorest economies. Sometimes the countries change. This can be due to a few reasons. A country's economic or development efforts pay off and they "graduate" from the list. A country descends into conflict either intrastate or interstate. A country experiences bankruptcy due to the global economic system turning its back or recalling loans. A country is taken over by a crazy person. Or a new fledgling country is born and hasn't gotten it together just yet. South Sudan was just added to the list.

In the Nile basin 9 or the 11 countries are on the list, the exceptions are Kenya and Egypt. In the Mekong 3 of the 6 countries are on the list, the exceptions are Thailand, China, and Vietnam. I am making maps of the LCDs in the two watersheds. Below is the list I am using for the maps. It is from 2008.

The authors of this figure, Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra and Mehmet Gene, break down the LDCs as follows:

The Least Developed Countries, which represent about 700 million people, have to fulfill 3 parameters to qualify for this list:

  1. low GDP, 
  2. weak human resources because of health and education described by caloric intake, child mortality, adult literacy, and enrollment in secondary education, 
  3. high economic vulnerability in the goods and services sector as described by agricultural production, population numbers, goods & services exports, share of manufacturing in the GDP, and amount of merchandise export.
An average LDC has a GNI of <$500/year, life expectancy of about 50 years, and adult literacy rate of <60%. The average developing country has a GNI of >$4000/year, life expectancy of about 70 years, and adult literacy rate of about 90%. LDCs are in a class all their own when it comes to development challenges. If the description I just gave you doesn't register, developed countries have a GNI of $26,000/year, life expectancy of about 80 years, and adult literacy rate of 100%. This list exists on this screen in front of you in numbers, but remember that the numbers are generated about people, living breathing people. I am not a fan of taking human life and massaging it into objective bite size chunks, as so many indices and measurements do, but there is useful application to seeing the staggering brevity of life expectancy in any country - take Zambia's 36.9 years. I'd be dead already. 

Political geography, global economics, and chance should not dictate quality of life for anyone.