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The Least Developed Countries Report 2021



  • GS 2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora – their structure, mandate.



  • Recently, UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) has released a new report titled, ‘The Least Developed Countries Report’ where it has highlighted the developments in the least developing countries over the last 50 years.


What are the least developing countries?

  • The countries are measured on the basis of three parameters.
    • Income Criteria: The threshold for inclusion in this category of countries is an income of $1,018 or below.
    • Human assets index (HAI): It consists of a health sub-index and an education sub-index.
    • The thresholds for inclusion are a composite score of 60 or below.
    • Economic and environmental vulnerability index: It consist of two sub-indices—an economic vulnerability sub-index and an environmental vulnerability sub-index.
    • The thresholds for inclusion are a composite score of 36 or above.
  • The list of LDCs is reviewed every three years by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a group of independent experts that report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
  • As of 2021, forty-six countries are designated by the United Nations as least developed countries (LDCs).


Trade and Development Report 2021


Key findings

50 years of the LDC category


  • The number of LDCs doubled from 25 at the establishment of the category in 1971 to a peak of 52 in 1991.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic brought about the worst growth performance in 30 years.


The Least Developed Countries Report 2021_3.1


Achievements at 50: Growth, transformation and sustainability?


  • Real GDP for LDCs has increased fivefold since 1971.
  • Prior to the COVID-19 shock, LDCs accounted for about 1% of world GDP.
  • Only seven LDCs (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Mali, and Myanmar) have consistently outpaced the world average GDP per capita growth by more than 1%.


Financial Stability and Development Council


Estimating the cost of achieving Sustainable Development Goals in the LDCs during the post-pandemic decade


  • LDCs will have to invest $485 billion annually to eradicate extreme poverty.
  • LDCs will have to invest $462 billion annually to meet the target of achieving a 7% annual GDP growth.
  • The level of LDC’s public expenditure will have to increase by 12.3% from the current 2.9% of GDP to reach major social and environmental targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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