India announces additional aid to LDCs

New Delhi: India on Friday announced additional assistance to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which included establishment of a special fund of USD five million and a USD 500 million credit line for developmental projects, strengthening its commitment to aid these nations.

Terming as "clearly unacceptable" the pace of progress in LDCs in changing their country status, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said, "The number of Least Developed Countries has almost doubled from 25 in 1970 to 48 in 2011.

Only three countries have so far graduated out of their LDC status.

"It is time that we take up the cause of the LDCs on a war-footing and work together. Without the progress of these countries there can be no equitable global growth and prosperity," he said while inaugurating a ministerial conference of LDCs.

Given the enormity of the challenges facing the LDCs and the "less than satisfactory results of international efforts" so far, it is imperative that "we explore new and innovative ways to supplement the mainstream effort to assist these countries and look for out-of-the-box solutions to assist our least developed country partners," he said.

Apart from announcement of financial aid including the setting up of a special fund of USD five million over the next five years for the follow-up to UN LDC Four conference to be held in Istanbul in May, India also announced another five scholarships every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITECP) for each LDC.

Earlier, a delegation of leaders from LDCs called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"Today, as the world`s largest democracy, which supports fundamental human rights and human freedoms, we are proud of the progress we have been able to register to meet the economic aspirations of our people. We stand ready to share our experience with our friends and brethren in the Least Developed Countries," Krishna said.

Foreign ministers of 35 of the 48 LDCs and also about 45 permanent representatives in New York of the LDCs are participating in the two-day conference here.

Apart from LDCs, Finland, Australia, Slovenia, China, Hungary, Croatia, Georgia, European Union, the US, Germany and Hungary will also attend the meeting as observers.

The objective of the Conference is to provide inputs to the Fourth UN-LDC Conference, which is expecting an ambitious outcome, one which would allow at least 50 per cent of the countries to reach the threshold of graduation by 2020.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for India to explore the untapped opportunities of South-South cooperation which can contribute significantly to the sustained development of LDCs, the minister said.

"We have seen significant growth in a few LDCs, attributed mainly to concerted national efforts and some international support. But the overall progress continues to be halting, uneven and fragile," Krishna said.

Over the decades, the foreign direct investment from India to LDC countries has increased dramatically, and is estimated to be around USD 35 billion. It has provided USD 4.3 billion lines of credit to LDCs over the years.