Excellencies,

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to warmly welcome you to this academic roundtable entitled: Economic Growth and Structural Change: Priorities for the Least Developed Countries. I would like to especially thank or partners from the Development Research Group of the World Bank, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Study Center as well as the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University for co-organising this event with internationally renown experts, who will provide us with insights about how LDCs can reach their development goals through structural change. I would also like to convey my gratitude to the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations who provided some financial support for this event.

As you are aware the Fourth United Nations Conference on the least developed countries resulted in the adoption of a bold Political Declaration and a comprehensive and ambitious Programme of Action. Its overarching goal is to address the structural handicaps of LDCs, therefore securing poverty eradication and the attainment of international agreed development goals across LDCs as well as increasing graduation of these countries from their least developed status. In this regard, the Istanbul Programme of Action calls for a shift in development paradigm, with a rebalancing of priorities between the productive sectors and social sectors as well as a balanced role of the state and the market.

Despite considerable progress with respect to growth and achieving some of the MDGs, LDCs are still characterised by high vulnerabilities to external shocks. These include economic shocks like volatile commodity prices due to their limited diversification of production and exports as well as increasing food prices due to their relatively low agricultural productivity. Thus the first priority area for action of the Istanbul Programme of Action focuses on productive capacity to bring about structural transformation. It has the ultimate goal to increase decent employment, which is the only sustainable way to reduce poverty. Implementing this agenda requires focused action in key areas, with emphasis on the state in promoting change, mobilizing resources, and expanding trade opportunities.

The Istanbul Programme of Action also broadens the partnership for LDCs not only with development partners including through South-South cooperation but also other relevant stakeholders. Specifically, the Istanbul Programme of Action calls for a greater role and contribution of actors such as parliaments, the private sector and the civil society in the implementation, monitoring, follow-up and review of the programme of action. The notion of partnerships with civil society includes academia and philanthropic foundations.

The report of the Secretary-General on the Outcome of the Istanbul Conference states that for the effective and efficient implementation of the priority actions of the Istanbul Programme of Action it is necessary to take into account recent research findings and best practices. Thus academia, including universities and research institutions, should be invited to generate up-to-date information that can facilitate policy discussions and advice for evidence-based decision-making.

It is in this context that we have organised this academic roundtable to learn about most recent research findings from our experts and to facilitate dialogue between the different groups of stakeholders of the Istanbul Programme of Action. Thus I am glad that we have not only government representatives and academia in the audience today, but also representatives from civil society and the private sector.

The objective of this roundtable is to discus policy recommendations on how LDCs can overcome economic vulnerabilities and better manage risks in order to achieve sustained, equitable and inclusive economic growth. The roundtable is expected to contribute to the identification of strategies required in order to implement the Istanbul Programme of Action. 

Before we hear the keynote speech by Justin Yifu Lin, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, the Permanent Representatives of Turkey, H.E. Mr. Apakan, representing the host country of the Istanbul Conference, and of Nepal, H.E. Mr. Acharya, chair of the group of LDCs, will make short remarks. After the keynote speech on Challenges, Opportunities, and Strategies for Structural Transformation in Least Developed Countries there will be a panel discussion featuring Frannie Léautier, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation, Léonce Ndikumana, Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Aaditya Mattoo, Research Manager at the World Bank. Their presentations will focus on The Role of Resources, Employment and Growth-Enhancing Trade and will be followed by an interactive discussion.

I thank you for your kind attention and look forward to stimulating presentations and discussions.