World Bank and IMF: Dilemmas and Opportunities

25 June 1999 | Briefings

Alex Wilks and Theo Ruyter

Are the World Bank and IMF now taking environmental and social issues seriously? Should their critics take a more encouraging stance towards them, to help refine not reform their approaches? Can the Bank and Fund now be seen as vehicles for raising social and environmental standards in Southern countries? Or are they still bound by a development model which focuses on economic growth, overlooking environmental stress and social dislocation?

These are key questions for people working on international issues. On 7-10 March 1999 Both ENDs and the Bretton Woods Project organised a meeting of 40 NGOs and researchers on Terschelling Island, The Netherlands, to examine World Bank and IMF approaches to development and consider new responses. A broad range of speakers presented the problems with economic growth as a measure of progress, how the Bank and others are devising additional indicators, the Bank’s flawed computer model of country economies, the differences between Bank and IMF approaches, the impacts of current Bank-backed reforms on women and national politics, and African perspectives on structural adjustment and globalization.

Key problems with economic growth

Growth in Gross National Product gives a bald estimate of economic activity. But it has come to be used by politicians and the media as a measure of progress. This is problematic because it:

  • gives positive values to harmful actions and ignores or downplays many constructive or creative ones (cutting a forest generates a cash windfall, while leaving it standing for recreation and biodiversity contributes little, buying fuel to drive a car contributes, walking and biking do not; nor do growing rather than buying your own vegetables, or looking after your child rather than paying for a nursery).
  • is quantity- rather than quality-based, taking a rationalist/reductionist view of the world and of people which ignores many personal, psychological and political aspects of life;
  • prevents policy-makers, journalists and the public recognising environmental limits (of resources for raw materials and sinks for waste disposal), the maximum sustainable size of the global economy and of each country’s fair share;
  • obscures inequality between and within countries as it does not disaggregate by class/region/ethnic group/gender etc;
  • provides national aggregate statistics which justify national development targets and “national development projects” which can marginalise local/regional views and give central governments justification to override peoples’ basic rights, for example by displacing them for a project to meet national power demand projections.

The importance of the WB/IMF

Despite some talk that the Bank and Fund are becoming irrelevant with the rise of private sector flows to the South, they are still playing many key roles. As well as lending tens of billions of dollars each year they:

  • scrutinise all governments’ economic policies and draw up reforms which form the basis for loan agreements;
  • chair Consultative Group meetings where other aid agencies decide how much money to pledge on what conditions;
  • publish hundreds of reports;
  • convene major meetings such as the Development Fora, the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics and their annual meetings, and;
  • train officials and journalists.

Since the Asia crisis, which many hoped would lead to profound reconsideration of the paradigm of development championed by the Bretton Woods institutions, they have been asked by the international community to play important roles in monitoring financial flows and setting social standards. The IMF, in particular, has emerged stronger than before.

Pawns of the G7?

Even if the Bank and Fund are important, do their perspectives not merely reflect the views of the G7 countries? Or are they out in front, influencing governments’ views of the international economy and development? There is evidence in both directions. Of course the US, the Europeans and Japanese, do have a major say in what they do. The US Congress, in particular, has put strong conditions on US contributions to both institutions and succeeded in stifling debate on issues such as a Tobin Tax on international speculative capital flows. But none of the governments have a quantity of economists focused on development and finance issues to match the Bank and Fund’s, so the statistics and arguments amassed by the International Financial Institutions carry a lot of weight, and frequently prepare the thinking of governments preparing for international fora such as the Copenhagen Social Summit.

Whilst the Bank and Fund can influence thinking on certain poverty and environmental questions, it seems clear that because their Boards are dominated by the Northern governments which finance them, they are not likely aggressively to pursue issues of international income inequality, overconsumption and the power of transnational corporations. So groups which want to raise these larger debates will have to be cautious about how they lend legitimacy to the institutions.

The potential of the WB/IMF

“Even the more open people in international financial institutions have difficulty discussing the assumptions behind their policy guidelines. One word that generates impatient reactions, if not aggressiveness, among their staff is ‘paradigm’. They generally do not accept that the main terms of reference of their economic thinking are questionable, that the neoclassic academic dogmas in which they were trained hinder rather than help them identify the real problems and getting to the real solutions. Yet this is a crucial area of debate for NGOs and peoples’ movements”. Marcos Arruda, Building Strategies on the International Financial Institutions, Institute of Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America, 1995

In theory the Bank and Fund should be able to look dispassionately at the long-term effects of their policies. Compared to governments with short-term electoral concerns the Bank and Fund are free to take a broader view. And they have hundreds of researchers supposed to monitor trends and analyse statistics.

Letters exchanged between the conference organisers and the heads of the two institutions (see, p. ??) reveal their reluctance to discuss the fundamentals of their approach to development. Both the Bank and Fund replied by emphasising their latest initiatives: in the Bank’s case the Comprehensive Development Framework and for the Fund the new financial architecture. The Fund says it is now promoting something called “high-quality growth”, without having dealt with the contradictions, presuppositions and biases which underlay its previous growth and international economic integration strategy.

The extent to which the Fund’s response is merely a matter of rhetoric and public relations is shown by the expression of a “firm belief” in the benefits of liberalization and globalization. The Fund is absolutely not prepared to address vital issues such as the clash between economic development and increased financial speculation. The IMF has contributed to the explosive rise of a financial system that focuses on short-term financial yields and prevents more long term “economic” choices which recognise quality and sustainability.

At the same time the Fund does appear now to believe that its mandate stretches well beyond financial and foreign exchange matters and that it is interested in “environment-oriented national account measures”. It is doubtful, however, whether other proposed indicators will be found “realistic alternatives” to orthodox GNP calculations.

World Bank President Wolfensohn’s response to the conference organisers’ letter failed to answer most of the ten questions submitted, merely stressing two new Bank initiatives. The first was the “Comprehensive Development Framework”, proposed by Wolfensohn in January 1999. This recognises that the World Bank and other international agencies have overemphasised macroeconomic statistics like GDP, interest rates and reserves, and that these must be balanced by structural, social, human and environmental targets. The Bank has also introduced a new figure of countries’ sustainability, “genuine savings” which subtracts some environmental damage and adds some investments in people. These are published in the latest World Development Indicators. But much of their analysis, in policy papers, project analyses and other documents, remains rooted in strictly orthodox thinking. Even the computer model they use for every country strategy is based on primitive 1950s development economics, as Gerald Barney shows in his paper (p. ??). The conference concluded that many World Bank approaches have not changed and that neither the Comprehensive Development Framework nor the Genuine Savings measurement initiative represent a sufficiently new conceptual approach to development.

The Bank and Fund’s recent statements on social and environmental issues certainly provide openings for groups challenging them on particular countries or projects. However, unless they change their core economic assumptions, the Bank and Fund will continue to conceal and exacerbate the world’s poverty and environmental problems rather than contribute to an informed debate and series of sensible actions.

Institutional limits

Whilst international development is a difficult area where predictions are hard to make, there seems to be a pattern of the Bank shifting blame to other factors (such as the international economy, unreliable governments, the weather) where convenient, and claiming credit where there are success stories. Recent World Bank announcements on social and environmental issues must be judged against the background of similar statements dating back almost 30 years. Then Bank President Robert McNamara asserted in 1972, for example, that: “we have designed a careful set of guidelines, and have built into our whole economic assistance strategy a feasible method for correlating ecological protection with effective and cost-conscious development”. This was evidently untrue and, whilst many environmental staff had been hired, no systematic approach was in place by the mid-1990s, as shown in detail by Robert Wade in the Bank’s authorised fiftieth anniversary history.

Among the institutional reasons for the Bank’s limited action are:

  • the pressure to lend large quantities of money and the failure to find systematic ways of rewarding staff for preparing good quality reports or projects or for achieving good development outcomes;
  • an “expert” not a “listening” culture with a staff that is ethnically diverse but mainly with PhDs from US or UK universities;
  • a culture of hierarchy rather than of internal debate and discussion;
  • pervasive optimism about prospects for development to raise the morale of development ministers and Bank staff, and;
  • confusion as to whether its research reports should be neutral contributions to debate or flagship documents aiming to raise the institution’s profile.

The current decentralisation of some of the Bank’s operations, and the emphasis on transparency and participation, raise some hope that there may be some space for more economic pluralism, but this will largely depend on how much pressure outside groups bring to bear.

As for the IMF there are similar and additional limits including:

  • a very narrow original mandate focussing on financial stabilisation, so social and environmental matters have been tacked on and are dealt with uncomfortably by the Fiscal Affairs division;
  • The Fund employs people from only a narrow range of economic and financial disciplines. The first two social specialists for the Fund have just been hired in 1999 on a trial basis; there are no environmental specialists;
  • The Fund’s culture is again of hierarchy and secrecy rather than open internal or external debate;
  • annual Article IV checks on Northern economies have no development/long-term perspective, ie overconsumption and the reduction of balance of payments surpluses are all ignored.

The limits of orthodox economics

“Economists view the world as a machine. A very complicated one, perhaps, but nevertheless a machine, whose workings can be understood by putting together carefully and meticulously its component parts. A lever pulled in a certain part of the machine with a certain strength will have regular and predictable outcomes elsewhere in the machine. …

Environmentalists, by contrast, see the world as a living organism. Prodding the system in a certain way in a certain place may sometimes cause the beast to hop in a certain direction, sometimes in another, and sometimes it will not move at all. Behaviour is too complex to be captured by a mechanistic approach.” Paul Ormerod, The Death of Economics, Faber and Faber, London, 1994.

The Bank, Fund and many others used to argue that getting the macroeconomics right was sufficient to secure developmental and environmental benefits. Now it is becoming clear that core neoliberal policy goals such as ‘comparative advantage’ and ‘correct pricing’ are flawed both in theory and as practical tools to solve development problems.

It is recognised that a much more direct focus is needed on human, structural, environmental and even cultural issues when examining development options. However, almost all World Bank and IMF staff are only introducing these diverse elements using the analytical tools of neoclassical economics. Among the main problems with this are:

  • the concept of ‘rational economic man’ with individualistic consumption preferences, rather than a society of men and women with multiple priorities to juggle;
  • the fiction of infinite natural resources and environmental sinks which will never restrain economic output or human welfare;
  • a confusion of economics and finance, and failure to disentangle the interests of people who have capital and those who have none;
  • the use of positive discount rates which argue for consumption now rather than conservation for future generations;
  • an apolitical, ahistorical, culturally biased approach.

An openness to new analytical tools and multi-disciplinary, participatory approaches will be needed to replace the neoclassical, neoliberal policies which are confusing ends and means and distracting attention from the key issues of inequality and long-term sustainability.

Thinking the (politically) unthinkable

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, London, 1936.

Many NGOs appear not to agree with this, or to do too little to distinguish the role of vested interests from that of ideas/frameworks of thought which maintain their power. Many want to work with researchers and thinkers to develop cogent alternative concepts to rally behind and help usher in more progressive policies, but often do not find time to build relationships with them.

It is clear, though, that a major role for NGOs and independent researchers should be to “think the unthinkable”: to push the boundaries of debate and look at the medium- and long-term implications of current institutional policies. NGOs should not just react to World Bank and IMF documents, consultation initiatives etc but seek to map out an agenda for the Bank and Fund to react to. It took about 40 years of holding conferences, establishing thinktanks and building networks for the monetarists to get their views accepted, and it will take careful strategising if this orthodoxy is to be displaced by ‘green economics’ or ‘new economics’.

Within the ‘green economics’ and ‘new economics’ brackets there are many competing ideas. Some, following Schumacher and many Marxist writers, want to carefully limit the application of economic methodologies, arguing that certain issues cannot be reduced to technical calculations and must be publicly debated in the language of politics and ethics. Others want to extend economic methodologies such as ‘externalities’ into the realm of the environment and society. A recent example is the World Bank’s interest in “social capital” to add to its existing categories of human capital, natural capital and physical capital.

For those who want to reset the boundaries of economic thinking, believing that technical economic analysis is debasing our political discussions and leading to social and environmental disaster, concepts which are vital to debate include:

  • the notion that economic growth can continue infinitely in a system based on finite resources;
  • the right or even duty to consume as much as you can afford to;
  • the money supply and interest loan system;

If such tenets are more strongly challenged, a series of policy and practical recommendations will emerge and new emphasis will be given to currently unfashionable minority ideas and pursuits. These include:

  • regulating and taxing capital;
  • producing alternative national economic indicators such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare;
  • recognising the value of ‘informal’ economic activity, unpaid work in the home and community, and local currency and trading schemes which emphasise self-reliance.

Questioning the Growth Model: the meeting

The March 1999 meeting on Terschelling Island, The Netherlands, brought together a selection of speakers to generate discus on the above issues and provoke discussion among the NGOs, journalists and researchers present.

On the first day the speakers presented perspectives on the most serious current problems with the World Bank and IMF approaches to economics, and made some suggestions of how to tackle some of them.

Roefie Hueting pointed out the serious technical flaws in orthodox economic calculations such as GNP growth. He pointed out that economics, which is supposed to assist choices about how to conserve and maximise scarce goods is failing to help policy-makers focus on the real scarce resources such as drinking water and genetic resources. New models which Hueting and others have been developing over 30 years to incorporate such factors and plan for future generations have been resisted by the national accounting agencies and international bodies.

Richard Douthwaite described how he had come to realise that economic growth bore no relationship to progress in human welfare. Now even some World Bank economists reluctantly acknowledge this. Growth should not be necessary for North or even for the South: resources and action should focus on the poorest. However combatting the equation that growth equals progress is yesterday’s war: many political leaders now seem to argue that growth is a regrettable necessity not a goal in itself. Also economic growth measurements will continue to be necessary under our current financial system as they express the overall increase in demand needed to absorb and repay last year’s investment. Other matters we consider important will have to be measured with complementary, additional indicators.

Laura Rubio Frade described her view, based on work with women’s movements in Latin America, that the political and economic spheres have become extremely dislocated and that many decisions have gone up to the supranational level, to agencies such as the World Bank and IMF. The latest set of policies that the World Bank is promoting to induce growth in Latin America will have severe impacts on women, as did the earlier rounds of structural adjustment. These impacts are often invisible to planners.

Gerald Barney explained the limitations of the World Bank’s computer model used to produce Country Assistance Strategies and Policy Framework Papers. The model, a spreadsheet with 10,000 lines, represents a very basic economic development theory which systematically excludes social and environmental issues. It is designed to answer the question of how much investment a country needs to reduce poverty, but its predictions have proved very poor, as a World Bank paper has admitted. The model is not just misleading but cannot be audited and can be easily manipulated to obtain convenient figures.

Kamal Malhotra emphasised the differences between Bank and Fund’s mandates and current messages on economic policies. Whilst the Bank has changed its approach to development several times, especially to change the emphasis of demand versus supply, the changes have all been between various strands of neoclassical growth theory. The theory itself has gone unchallenged. The key is not whether or not there should be growth, but what should grow to what end? The UNDP focus on human development and Amartya Sen’s human capabilities approaches are positive steps. NGOs are normally too reactive on these questions and often fail to see the Bank and Fund in the context of the global financial and political system.

Dipo Busari urged the development of an African approach to structural adjustment and economic reform. This should emphasise basic needs, food security and empowerment rather than theoretical nostrums from orthodox economics. Countries should seek regional ties and regional trade before each integrating into the international economy.

Samir Amin argued that the dominant policies of global economic integration conflict with the stated aim of political emancipation/democratisation. People need to look at the structural constraints on the economy and work towards transparent social regulation and institutions. Political mobilisation is needed to tackle structural inequalities which have worsened dramatically.

Discussions and strategies

After each speakers’ presentation and on the second and third days of the meeting there were lively discussions around these themes. Related topics were also broached, including how to respond to misleading World Bank/IMF research, the sufficiency of the World Bank’s new indicators and the implications of the Post Washington Consensus/new institutional economics introduced by the Bank’s Chief Economist. A small play was also performed by meeting participants to examine the ways that private companies, governments and the World Bank justify development projects in the name of national economic development.

It emerged that few NGOs and researchers are working directly on confronting the Bank and Fund models, and our critiques are coming from too many varied perspectives. Much further discussion and strategising is needed to see how NGOs can ensure that their approaches do not clash, but undermine and replace the established orthodoxies effectively.

The different, though overlapping, perspectives from which meeting participants were criticising the Bank and IMF‘s models can be characterised as:

  • environmental impacts of and limits to material production growth, which requires change in Northern economies;
  • scepticism about using mainstream economic tools to define and measure progress;
  • the World Bank and IMF are politically captured by the US/G7, and back their interests;
  • leftist/statist/Keynesian approaches;

It is possible to be unanimous in opposing economic growth as the definition of development, as this effaces environmental and equity concerns. Rhetorically, however, the Bank and even the Fund have now accepted that a more balanced and holistic approach is necessary, and also that not just material but also human, social and environmental inputs to development should be measured. Whilst these are assessed as unsatisfactory add-ons to the Bank’s and Funds’ traditional arguments, the new steps make more complicated the task of coordinating critical opposition.

The meeting brought together a diverse collection of people, most of whom did not know each other before. This was a risk, as it made the meeting hard to plan and guide, but helped foster broader understandings and new working relationships. Some participants evaluated that the meeting was too loosely chaired with insufficient opportunity to debate speakers’ key conclusions and suggestions. Indeed one participant said that he identified three unreconciled positions at the end of the first day of the meeting:

  • growth does not lead to increased welfare (Douthwaite);
  • the key is to internalize externalities and then the contradictions of growth will be resolved (Hueting); and
  • growth or no growth is not the issue, it is more useful to ask “growth of what, for what purposes” (Kamal Malhotra).”

The participant further commented that it would have been useful to pursue this discussion further, not in the hope of reaching a consensus, but to explore and better understand our different perceptions of our goals and tactics.

Others, however, welcomed the non-directional approach to the meeting, and that opportunity to share perspectives and recognise the need to supplement national level or specific work with international or big picture work. Many people indicated their desire to take up a particular aspect of the Terschelling discussions such as the effect of structural adjustment on women, while others claimed that everything said there was important for their work. This report, our websites subsequent email bulletins and meetings will help keep these debates alive within and between countries and continents and between NGOs and researchers. One meeting participant concluded that communications need to be improved: “The Southern partners need to reinforce their capacity to better contribute to these analysis and lobbying processes, through better access to appropriate tools and information, and continuous interaction with partners in the North already involved in these issues.” As well as helping Southern groups directly tackle their country-specific questions with relevant Bank and Fund staff, we must seek opportunities to discuss more global, common critiques of Bank/Fund strategies and approaches.

Comments from meeting round-up session and questionnaire

“I realise I have lots of homework to do: we need to educate ourselves more on these issues”

“A good opportunity to look at the bigger picture”

“It was hard to deal with the big picture topics and the details of hooks and levers for the Bank and Fund”

“Most of all, the meeting has strengthened me / us in our convictions and daily work”

“It is crucial to examine what is the real economy and what is just speculation, and how people can control the economy again”

“I was surprised by the resistance addressed to the World Bank and the IMF directly as the principal architects of the current macroeconomic model in the South. Even though the TNCs are behind them, these institutions have also power over the TNCs. Even though the G7 is impelling the majority of the decisions taken by these multilaterals, the European Union is also reproducing the model impelled by the WB?IMF because their are considered the experts. However I think that it was very interesting to discuss about this issue.”

“I was surprised that a high proportion of the participants still believed in the growth model themselves: some of the NGOs seemed to have begun to identify with the WB and IMF, or at least with the global system, in the way that a kidnap victim is said to do with their kidnappers.”

“Few people seemed to think that development was about enabling communities to do more for themselves and that flows of foreign capital could work against this.”

“Our work on Sustainability issues (environment, social and economics) in the Moroccan context did not initially integrate a component on IFIs ; then we think that we need to get involved in the analysis and critique of the intellectual economic models imposed by the WB particularly”

“It’s much easier now for me to understand what is behind the Bank and IMF speeches than it was before. It’s helped me to have a more global picture than my day to day work usually allows me to have!”

“Expectations were met, mainly learning from others, in particular getting to know the different analyses/perspectives on the different aspects of the growth model. Of course, I had no expectation that we can resolve all the differences, especially regarding how to change or reform the Bretton Woods institutions. Anyhow, even as we pursue different strategies, the Terschelling experience reminds us that our different initiatives do complement one another. Networking was also important, especially in light of the need for global campaigns on globalization and liberalization.”


The key policy messages of the meeting were that:

  • The orthodox Bank/Fund model does not work, and there is evidence to prove this. The new approaches they have announced, whilst more complex and providing openings for NGOs to push certain points in detailed country or policy discussions, will not solve the major problems of instability, poverty and environmental degradation as they are tackling their symptoms not causes;
  • Trade-offs between economic growth and the environment must be faced, at the same time that poorer countries want to expand their economic activity;
  • Alternative approaches and strategies do exist;
  • International agencies’ analytical work and policy advice should look beyond the national level and consider regional and global trends and influences;
  • The World Bank and IMF‘s roles as sources of expertise and wisdom should be challenged and they should be pressed to recognise alternative thinking in their key reports and when planning their operations;
  • The Bank and Fund too often act as arms of the G7 governments rather than genuinely multilateral, independent bodies. This reality will remain while their governance structure is controlled by the countries which give the greatest financial contributions.

Specific plans towards the World Bank and IMF

Whilst the above messages require sustained long-term work to broadcast, a variety of shorter-term opportunities to take forward these debates were suggested at the meeting and in the subsequent questionnaire. Among them were:

The World Bank’s Comprehensive Development Framework

The January 1999 memo which launched the Comprehensive Framework recognises the interplay between macroeconomic, structural, social and environmental goals and talks of the need to consider all of these together when considering country strategies. It also says that NGOs and researchers should play a greater part in drawing up such strategies and that the Bank must work with countries on a medium term (15-20 year) agenda. This Framework will be piloted in 13 countries, providing an excellent opportunity to test the Bank’s seriousness about allowing civil society input into country strategies and about taking a more holistic and medium-term perspective and allowing pluralist approaches. Researchers and campaigners in other countries can support their colleagues in CDF countries (Eritrea; Ethiopia, Ghana; Uganda, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Cote d’Ivoire; Morocco; Jordan; West Bank and Gaza; Vietnam; Kyrgyz Republic, and Romania).

Environmental pilot strategies

The World Bank has also recently started the “Country Assistance Strategies and Environment” pilot initiative which involves the Bank’s Environment Department working with its country teams to assess countries’ key environmental problems, their root causes and the value of aid agencies’ environmental work. Environmental analysis should be integrated into CAS sections on the economy, poverty, rural issues, health and risks and new indicators should be developed for this. Work will take place in the Dominican Republic, Zambia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Argentina. The World Bank’s new “genuine savings” indicator is likely to be a key focus here.

World Development Reports

NGOs and researchers may want to counter the 1999/2000 World Development Report which is tackling trade liberalisation, financial liberalisation, global environmental treaties and urban issues. This will be published in September 1999 and early indications are that it will advocate a significant extension of the World Trade Organisation’s mandate.

The 2000/2001 World Development Report on poverty also offers opportunities, and many groups have already either attended meetings or fed in papers on this. The Bretton Woods Project has been asked by the (World Bank commissioned but not led) WDR team to facilitate a global email “consultation” on the first draft of this report in February-March 1999. This gives an opportunity for interested groups to assess whether it represents a real effort to tackle the “fundamental questions that have no easy answers”, as Bank President Wolfensohn has promised.

World Bank conferences

The annual meetings of the Bank and Fund now always have a seminar series preceding them, as well as various NGO and media activities. The meeting in Prague in September 2000 will provide an excellent opportunity to critique Bank/Fund approaches in advising Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union on how to reform their economies. NGOs should also claim space for follow?up discussions on Bank/Fund approaches to economic reform at other major Bank meetings such as the Annual Bank Conferences on Development Economics.

Debt Campaign Follow-up

Many campaigners on the international debt issue realise it is artificial to separate debt from other economic and political questions. As well as reducing some proportion of some countries’ debts, the Jubilee 2000 popular mobilisation and international network offers the opportunity for a larger discussion about inequality, dependency, the role of the World Bank and the IMF and reforms needed in Northern economies to reduce poverty in the South.

Other Opportunities

The above represent just some of the immediate opportunities to tackle the growth model, although it is relevant to most meetings on economic policy or international issues, even if the World Bank and IMF are not the main focus. Indeed, people working on World Bank and IMF issues should also collaborate more closely with those challenging the World Trade Organisation, in particular the extension of its mandate through the so-called “Millennium Round” negotiations due to start in November 1999. Some groups already combine an interest in all these institutions, and further strategy meetings on this are taking place towards the end of 1999.

Further ways should also be found to encourage interaction and debate between activists and researchers on these difficult but essential questions. This can be done using existing networks, listserves, coordination meetings etc, but could be helped by initiatives such as launching an annual competition for the best piece of writing on Questioning the Growth Model themes.