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close this bookOvercoming Global Hunger (WB)
close this folderSession two - macroeconomic reform: its impact on poverty and hunger.
View the documentMacroeconomic reform: its impact on poverty and hunger
View the documentDiscussant remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentFloor discussion
View the documentSpecial address: the scope for public action to reduce chronic hunger

Workshop spokesperson remarks

Nancy Alexander

The workshop group asked me to highlight areas of agreement and disagreement

First is the issue of participation Mr. Preston has called for participation to he the norm in Bank projects, but there is a great silence about participation in macroeconomic reform policies As it stands now, only a handful of government officials, principally the finance minister of a country, shape economic reforms with the donor institutions. However, our workshop thought that representatives of local communities, unions, farmers, women's groups, environmentalists, consumers, and so on should have a voice in shaping the economic reforms as well as the projects that shape their destiny.

NGOs generally felt that such participation was vitally important in relation to the transparency and accountability of Bank-funded operations. Many Bank staff felt otherwise. This is puzzling to me Bread for the World works to shape the United States' adjustment program every day: its tax policies, its deficit reduction strategies, its fiscal priorities, and so on Clearly the United States has a richer infrastructure in democratic institutions than, for instance, Mali. But it would seem to be a necessary goal to build the capacity of communities and organizations to shape economic reforms This can only happen if adequate information about proposed programs is available to them. Currently, information is not generally available to the people or to the representatives of all the stakeholders.

Information should also be made available to government ministries other than the finance ministry—in a way that ensures that they have a role in shaping policies that benefit poor and hungry people and protect the environment. The resources of other donor agencies with a strong knowledge of and experience in reducing poverty and hunger, such as the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Developments Fund for Women, should regularly be called upon I understand that this is not currently the case.

The second issue is equity Our recommendation is that the Bank and borrowing country governments do more than minimize the adverse effects of adjustment by integrating relief measures, which are often too little too late, into reform packages. The Bank and governments should ensure that poor people, especially women, benefit.

Although economic growth is important for the reduction of poverty and hunger, the nature and pattern of growth is critical. The Bank and governments should promote a development strategy based on the principle of equity, with a goal of ensuring that the productive capacity of all people is fully realized.

The group was strongly in favor of the following declaration from the International Conference of Nutrition: "Our priority should be to implement people-focused policies and programs that increase access to and control of resources by the urban and rural poor, raise their productive capacities and incomes, and strengthen their capacity to care for themselves." We want to see Bank policies that do that. Specifically, the Bank needs to emphasize strategies to eliminate gender bias, promote land reform and secure tenancy, reduce massive income differentials, and give priority to hunger prone groups and regions.

Policy dialogue between governments and civil society and between the Bank and governments should result in adjustment packages proposed to the board that are explicitly designed to invite participation, to meet targets that can be monitored during a specified time frame, and to give feedback to ensure that mid-course corrections are made as necessary to achieve goals These goals should include human development and quality of life criteria, not just economic criteria.

The third issue is government policies. There was some agreement that progressive taxation policies that are actually implemented should help rectify skewed, unjust patterns of growth and income. The participants also agreed that excessive military expenditures should not be allowed to sap resources that could otherwise be used for investments in people and productive capacity.

Most participants in the workshop agreed that relieving debt is important so that it does not create ate an unreasonable burden in relation to the size and dynamism of an economy. However, the participants were unable to agree on how to relieve debt, including the growing proportion of multi lateral debt. People from developing countries stressed that these heavy burdens make them vulnerable to and too dependent on the conditionality imposed on their governments by the international financial institutions. They also disagreed about the implications of a double standard relating to the enforcement of adjustment conditionality, one standard for rich countries, another for poor countries. For example, the United States, while still the world's largest economy, is the world's largest debtor, has the world's largest military budget, and is the world's largest arms merchant Like many other powerful economies, the domestic U.S. subsidies, especially agricultural and textile subsidies, and other protectionist policies make for an unequal global playing field.

Bank officials contended that poor countries should continue to liberalize their economies despite the vagaries of external conditions Many NGOs argued that an emphasis on servicing fickle demand in rich countries must be balanced. with the need for self-reliance.

The United States considers the production of certain crops and manufactured goods as essential to its national security, and some NGOs argued that the standard of security should be afforded to developing countries as well.