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16 January, 2019 11:05:33 AM
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Closing energy gap would help poor countries develop

A recent United Nations report urges wealthier nations to do more to honour their aid commitments to help the least developed countries bridge the energy gap that now exist in these countries
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Closing energy gap would help poor countries develop

It is universally accepted that energy is a sine qua non for the all round development of a nation – industrially and agriculturally. But the global poor countries are lagging behind in this sector compared to the global developed ones. Under this circumstance the global rich countries with high energy production and consumption has a role to play for the development of the poor countries’ energy sector to bring parity in energy consumption and overall economic development. This would not only help closing the energy gap between the rich and the poor in poor countries needed for the global poorest countries’ accelerating development but will also ensure egalitarian enjoyment of the beneficial fruits of modern industrial civilisation for all.

Of late a United Nations (UN) report urges global wealthy nations to do more to honour their aid commitments to help the least developed countries (LDCs) bridge the energy gap that now exist in these countries. The world's least developed countries need access to more electricity if they are to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and develop at the earliest. The report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development says that 60 per cent of people in the world's poorest countries, 47 of which meet the UN's standards for being “least developed”, have no access to electricity at all. There in those countries live some 577 million people in total. Access to stable supplies of electricity is crucial for helping businesses, industries and agriculture in developing countries to grow rapidly to break through the vicious cycle of poverty that they are trapped in now.

The report that was released on November 22, 2017 said that more than 40 per cent of businesses and industries in the countries covered in the report suffer at present from inadequate, unreliable and unaffordable power for use. It said that they report an average of 10 power outages a month, each lasting about five hours that cost them 7 per cent of the value of their sales. The secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mukhisa Kituyi told in Bangkok that "Energy as a source of transformation (of an economy) is one of the key issues of economic development and this is what we are trying to contribute to, specifically for the least developed countries". Kituyi said that there is a shortfall of US $1.5 trillion in funding to help meet the goal of universal access to power by 2030.

The report said that it would cost an estimated US $12 billion to US $40 billion in annual investment and a more than tripling of the annual rate of gaining access to electricity in those poor countries. The countries covered in the report include 33 in Africa, nine in Asia, and five in the South Pacific and Caribbean region. The UN is encouraging governments in those poor countries to adopt policies to attract investors in the relevant sectors and improve use of their energy resources to the desired extent to meet necessary development goals. But it was still very difficult for those poor nations to tap sufficient private sources of financing for poverty alleviation satisfactorily at the earliest.

It is argued that the world has come to a point in recent time where many people are of the opinion that many solutions to development are best triggered by the private sector of an economy. But it is not possible to say that about the least developed global countries yet. Kituyi said that “You cannot leave it to the private market to fix Laos and Bangladesh, and Cambodia challenges”. Renewable energy sources have the potential to play a revolutionary role to meet the challenges in such countries. But, so far, most of those initiatives have been small scale, and the UN is urging that the use of such technologies be scaled up to be useful for public utilities of those countries.

It is expected that the relevant authorities in those countries including Bangladesh will expedite their efforts to that end for enhanced development of their economies to alleviate poverty of their people.  

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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