Title: World Bank Reforms: New Strategy, Old Ideology
Author: Viorica Vladica
Keywords: WORLD BANK REFORMS/POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY PAPERS/VIETNAM/COUNTRY OWNERSHIP
Amid various efforts to reform its policies, the World Bank (WB) announced more than five years ago a new policy framework for developing countries known as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). Deriving from the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), publicized a year earlier, and in tune with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), launched by the UN system, the new approach placed the concept of poverty reduction at the core of development paradigm and embarked on the principle of participatory development planning. Although the intention was to attribute aid-recipient governments the lead role in defining policies funded by the WB, and expand the development and poverty understanding with views from the civil society and the poor, the initiative exhibited various weaknesses in implementation. This paper analyzes the weaknesses but also the progress in implementation of PRSP through the assessment of various development stakeholders' involvement in order to answer whether the PRSP approach represents a change in the practices and philosophy of the WB towards developing countries.
While many civil society groups maintain that regardless of its policy shifts, the WB is resistant to change its ideological pattern, the paper argues that the PRSP initiative is a sign that the Bank is changing. It insists that, with the adoption of PRSP, governments seized their legitimate authority to shape the development policy framework for their own country and determine conditions for policy support, while non-state development stakeholders acquired an outstanding opportunity to influence development outcomes. With Vietnam and its Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS) as a case study, the paper identifies the necessary conditions and prerequisites for a successful PRSP implementation, and points out what it takes for a country to be in the driver's seat over the development course.
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