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Expanding productive capacity: lessons learned from graduating least developed countries

December 11, 2017

The limited progress of least developed countries (LDCs) in developing their productive capacities remains one of the main obstacles to move towards graduation from the LDC category and to achieve the sustainable development goals. While there is international agreement on the importance of building productive capacity, the question of what policy interventions are successful usually remains unanswered.

This Policy Note provides some answers by analyzing the strategies and policy choices of 14 countries that have successfully graduated from the LDC category, or have made noteworthy progress towards graduation. It contains a wide range of lessons not only relevant to all LDCs but the international community at large.

The note develops an analytical framework for expanding productive capacities for sustainable development that highlights the need for integrated policies across five broad policy areas: (I) development governance; (II) social policy; (III) macroeconomic and financial policies; (IV) industrial and sectoral policies; and (V) international support. It also emphasizes the need for different national strategies and tailored international support due to the diversity of LDCs. In this regard, the note identifies three different pathways towards graduation and highlights for each pathway key policy lessons for effectively expanding productive capacity. The first pathway is characterized by rapid economic growth based on natural resource exploitation, but also by insufficient building of human assets and high vulnerabilities to external economic shocks. On the second pathway, economic specialization is coupled with investments in social sectors. The third pathway open to more larger economies is characterized by structural transformation leading to more diversified economies.

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