While real GDP growth for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as a group is forecast to strengthen somewhat to 5 per cent in 2017 and 5.4 per cent in 2018, the modest improvements in the international context fall short of what would be needed to spur growth and structural transformation in the LDCs.

This is one of the main conclusions of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in a new report titled "Selected Sustainable Development Trends in the Least Developed Countries 2018".

Lessons from the WHO experience
As he concluded the first year of his term, the UN Secretary-General reiterated his call for a new Funding Compact, an agreement by Member States and the United Nations development system. In his 20 December advance report on Repositioning the UN Development System, he stated: “Ultimately, the Funding Compact is about increasing the likelihood of universal achievement of the SDGs and eradicating poverty from the face of the earth. In other words, it is about determining whether we can deliver on our ambition to make the world a more prosperous, peaceful and sustainable place by 2030.”

A non-binding declaration on Women and Trade signed by 118 countries was made public today during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel, where the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is taking place.

The “Joint Declaration on Trade and Women's Economic Empowerment” states without offering evidence that “international trade and investment are engines of economic growth for both developing and developed countries, and that improving women's access to opportunities and removing barriers to their participation in national and international economies contributes to sustainable economic development”.

The statement by women’s rights groups that calls out the WTO Declaration on Women’s Economic Empowerment which it says “appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation”.

In India, PPPs are expected to mobilize about half of the US$ 1 trillion target for infrastructure investment by the end of the 2012-2017 Five Year Plan. The government has been actively promoting PPPs in many sectors of the economy and the report by Social Watch India presents a mixed picture. Many of the highway/road construction projects like Golden Quadrilateral and seaports like the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) have been deemed a success.

The report observes, however, that “many times PPPs are good in theory, but in practice… they have transmogrified into avenues for the realtors to become rich at the cost of the tax payers”. Some promoters who excelled at gold-plating projects 'persuaded' public sector banks to lend on questionable assumptions and collateral. These promoters took out their equity money in the construction phase and exited the project under various conditions. Given India's rank in 'enforcing contracts' of 178 out of 189 countries, this should cause little surprise, since PPPs are essentially contracts. The biggest losers have been Indian citizens. Public sector banks now have a pile of stressed loans, which can now be remedied only by recapitalization from the tax payer.

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