The proposal was announced at a luncheon meeting on the opening day of the Global Services Forum in Beijing. The 28-29 May Forum is being held by UNCTAD in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, and with the Beijing Municipality.
The project-proposal is envisaged as a long-term, comprehensive project tailored to the data needs and statistical capacities of LLDCs, UNCTAD officials said. The project will be complementary to current capacity building initiatives directed at LLDCs, and it will take full advantage of all available materials developed to date and will be coordinated within the Interagency Task Force on Statistics of International Trade in Services (TFSITS), the officials said. The intent is to promote a "twinning-project" method by identifying countries that are willing to provide knowledge in statistics on international trade in services to beneficiary LLDCs, they said.
Landlocked developing countries face persistent challenges related to geographic isolation, which has been the main factor hindering their ability to develop internationally competitive products, speakers noted at the luncheon. Despite impressive growth in recent years, the economic and export structures of LLDCs are generally less diversified than those ofother developing nations, and LLDCs continue to rely more heavily on exports of primary commodities. Two products alone -- crude oil and natural gas - currently account for 60 percent of the total exports of landlocked developing countries.
UNCTAD believes that services provide a major opportunity for significant diversification of LLDC economies. Services can help to remove some of the critical bottlenecks that LLDCs often encounter due to geographical location - such barriers as long distances that must be dealt with by transport-related services, energy, trade facilitation and air and railway transport services. Second, the services sector will enable LLDCs to develop alternative areas of specialization and dynamic comparative advantages that will allow them to gain competitiveness in international markets without facing the usual constraints that hinder LLDC economies.
But a major challenge to boosting services in landlocked developing countries is a scarcity of up-to-date and reliable statistics on services in general - and on trade in services in particular, speakers said. UNCTAD's assessment indicates that not all LLDCs have the capacity to gather, compile, monitor, and report on trade in services on a timely basis. The organization believes that these limitations must be addressed urgently, since it is difficult for governments to formulate policies and monitor progress in services trade without adequate, reliable, and timely statistics.
Present at the working lunch organized by UNCTAD to launch the proposal for capacity-building in statistics were UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi and Gran Chandra Acharya, United Nations Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), LLDCs, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Also attending were several government ministers from landlocked developing countries.
The issue of statistics keeping was introduced by Taffere Tesfachew, UNCTAD's Director for Africa, LDCs, and Special Programmes. The proposed project was presented in detail by Henri Laurencin, Head of UNCTAD's Development Statistics and Information Branch.
Ministers at the session endorsed the proposal and spoke of the critical role statistics play in policy formulation and monitoring of progress in trade in services.
Under Secretary-General Acharya said that given the long and extensive experience of UNCTAD in supporting LLDCs, he would like to see UNCTAD's assistance to LLDCs go beyond statistics-related support to include productive capacity building and the development of the skills and knowledge required to build strong services economies.
Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives of Uganda, stressed the constraints that lack of reliable data impose on policy making. She appealed for a partnership approach in addressing the development of services sectors in LLDCs.
Manuel Maria Càceres, Minister of External Affairs and Integration of Paraguay, said the challenges facing landlocked countries must not be seen in isolation from the role that transit countries play as a vital trade link between landlocked countries and the rest of the world.