In November 250 representatives of civil society met in Harare for the first Zimbabwe national forum of the joint NGO–WB SAPRI (Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative). They told ministers and World Bank staff that adjustment programmes had not achieved their goals and had had many negative social consequences. The Bank agreed that standards of living had fallen and poverty levels worsened.
Participants pointed out that the burden of adjustment had fallen on labour, increasing inequality. Employment and wages were affected by trade liberalisation which caused businesses to fail due to competition from cheap imports. Participants argued that there should have been a serious assessment of the ability of Zimbabwean industry and agriculture to compete internationally before trade barriers were lowered. Other aspects of the adjustment programme, such as high interest rates, also harmed companies.
Participants called for government-supported lending institutions to provide subsidized loans to small businesses, small farmers, and other marginalised members of society.
Agricultural liberalisation has not brought the benefits of increased competition and efficiency because the physical and social infrastructure to support commercial farming has not been developed. Other problems include a lack of access to land and farm inputs, which have escalated in price. Participants noted that large farmers had benefitted by switching to export crops, with the result that national food production had fallen and imports risen. Smaller farmers and consumers could not get enough to eat. They proposed a national plan for agriculture to look at land, interest rates, stable prices, and basic infrastructure.
The next stage in the SAPRI process will be to research the priority areas identified at the forum. Results of this research and that from similar exercises in other SAPRI-participating countries (Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mali, and Uganda) will be presented during the course of 2000.