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UNCTAD decries wealth concentration, urges redesigning int’l financial architecture

  • Published at 11:32 am September 2nd, 2021
low income people-poverty-relief-coronavirus-RAJIB DHAR
Low income people wait by Dhaka’s major streets for people to come and provide some relief for them during the nationawide shutdown to contain Covid-19 transmission Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

The UNCTAD secretary-general also said her organization is engaging with the World Trade Organization on intellectual property rights issues as far as lifesaving vaccines are concerned

There exists a big frustration among the world’s poor and the middle class with more and more wealth and resources getting concentrated into few hands, acting secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Isabelle Durant said Thursday.

“We’ve to work for redesigning the international financial architecture where too much resources are not concentrated to too few hands,” she said at a virtual media brief. 

Durant, who also served in the past as vice president of the European parliament, also said: “We’ve to work for addressing growing inequalities, debt relief, creating opportunities and social protection for those who are left out.”

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She said there are huge gaps between men and women with the latter still enjoying much less opportunities compared to their male counterparts. 

Durant also wondered why 90% digitalization in the financial system is taking place only in countries like the US and China and why others are falling behind.

According to her, inequalities are giving rise to frustration and nationalism among the world’s middle class. 

The virtual brief was a prelude to the upcoming 15th quadrennial conference of UNCTAD. 

Barbados will host the five-day event that is billed to start on October 3.

The theme of the upcoming conference is “From Inequality and Vulnerability to Prosperity for All.”

Vaccine production capacity development

At the briefing, the UNCTAD secretary-general also said her organization is engaging with the World Trade Organization on intellectual property rights issues as far as lifesaving vaccines are concerned.

“We don’t like to see all depending on just a few big companies for vaccines [to fight Covid-19] and that is why we’re actively advocating for IP rights, technology transfer and development of capacities so that more nations can produce vaccines.” 

Vaccine sovereignty is crucial and that is possible only through the development of production capacities, said Durant, who had previously served as vice prime minister and a senator of Belgium. 

Help Bangladesh weather the “graduation storm” 

Meanwhile, speaking at the same forum, another UNCTAD official said the UN body is now actively working to make Bangladesh’s LDC graduation process smooth.

Praising Bangladesh’s robust economy, which is ready to graduate from an LDC to a lower middle-income country within a few years, UNCTAD Director In-charge of LDCs Paul Akiwumi said the organization is trying to help Bangladesh build resilience so that the country can weather the “graduation storm.”  

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He explained that when a country graduates from one tier of economic standing to another, it loses many preferential treatments and loses duty and quota-free facilities, thereby making it vulnerable to new shocks.

Akiwumi, however, has high hopes on Bangladesh’s ability to cope with the post-graduation reality.

Asked about Bangladesh’s high dependence on ready-made garments-led export growth, the UNCTAD director said: “We’re engaging with Bangladesh, OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and different UN agencies — looking at areas where Bangladesh can diversify its export economy. We’re exploring the areas where Bangladesh has comparative edge, skills, and opportunities.”

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