Eric Overvest: São Tomé and Príncipe is doing effectively when it comes to social indicators, equivalent to GDP per capita, however is lagging in others, such because the Economic Vulnerability Index, and that is the place the UN offers a variety of assist as a result of it’s the well being of the economic system that may enable the nation to graduate from its LDC standing.
For instance, we’ve serving to the nation to market itself as a spot that sells natural, high-end merchandise. So, as an alternative of simply exporting cocoa beans, they’re exporting chocolate bars. Organic palm oil, coconut oil, and vanilla pepper are additionally being offered.
Finding the sources to adapt to the local weather disaster can be crucial, and we’ve been supporting the federal government’s efforts to search out extra funding for the safety of biodiversity, and protect marine sources. This nation is shifting in direction of using renewable energies; the UN supported the nation’s first photo voltaic park, which opened final 12 months, and photo voltaic panels are going up on colleges and well being centres.
We’re additionally serving to to develop the non-public sector; selling a type of ecotourism that’s built-in into the tradition and historical past of the nation, and supporting small and medium sized enterprises.
UN News: What challenges might maintain Sao Tome again even after commencement, and the way does the UN plan to take care of that?
Eric Overvest: I might say it is a mentality shift, from the thought of being depending on overseas help, in direction of a mannequin the place you’re producing the sources in your personal economic system, ensuring you’ve gotten the sources of development to maintain your social safety system, to maintain the social sectors, and to make it possible for your nation can speed up in direction of the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It’s about assuming your improvement challenges and searching forward and seeing what we are able to do as a rustic to maneuver forward. So, it places a variety of strain on the nation to verify they’re prepared for commencement.
Linked to that’s the migration problem. Many are nonetheless searching for alternatives overseas, however the human sources wanted to assist the event course of are wanted within the nation.
A specific problem for São Tomé and Príncipe, and different Small Island Developing States, is the vulnerability of the islands to the local weather disaster, as a result of we now have seen floods, hurricane and storms, which may have a really disruptive impression on the economic system. In December 2021, round seven per cent of GDP was misplaced to break attributable to heavy rainfall.
UN News: What recommendation would you give to the leaders of Least Developed Countries to assist them obtain financial improvement and poverty discount?
Eric Overvest: Invest extra closely within the economic system and the sectors of development the place you’ve gotten the aggressive benefits, the place you possibly can add worth, and the place you possibly can create extra jobs.
You have to analyse your weaknesses and power, and that develop a nationwide improvement plan. And that requires dedication on the highest degree, political dedication to spend money on these financial sectors the place you actually see the longer term development of the nation.
I’ve seen it right here in São Tomé and Príncipe. There is an actual shift in direction of extra non-public sector involvement, and in direction of agriculture that isn’t simply based mostly on exporting uncooked supplies. LDCs want to search out their area of interest and develop it for future development.
Eric Overvest is the UN Resident Coordinator in São Tomé and Príncipe. He was speaking to UN News at LDC5, a serious UN convention, held in Doha, Qatar from 5-9 March 2023.
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