Do PRSPs Empower Poor Countries And Disempower The World Bank, or is it the Other Way Round?

Date: Oct, 2003
ODID Working Paper No. 108
Author(s): Frances Stewart and Michael Wang

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) have been introduced by the World Bank and the IMF as a necessary aspect of securing HIPC debt relief and access to other funds. They are intended to increase national 'ownership' of programmes, through extensive participation. This paper assesses whether they actually do empower poor countries, by exploring the process and content of the PRSPs. It finds that as far as civil society is concerned, the PRSPs currently permit little significant contribution to programme design. Governments appear to take a bigger role, but are also heavily constrained, especially with respect to macro-policy. The fact that the content of PRSPs is very similar to previous adjustment packages suggest that little real change has occurred through this process. Moreover, some large IFI programmes are unaffected by the process. Hence PRSPs do not significantly empower poor countries. They may give the appearance of greater ownership, but so long as there is no significant underlying change, such a change in perceptions about ownership, which could make IFI designed programmes more effective and thereby empower them, is likely to be short lived

ODID Author(s)