Bank ponders poverty report implementation

18 June 2001

A recent Bank document sets out the plan for implementing the conclusions of the Poverty World Development Report (WDR). The report, published last September after much more consultation and controversy than its predecessors, recommended actions to increase economic opportunities for poor people, facilitate their empowerment, and enhance their security.

The paper says that “many of the changes in the Bank’s practices in recent years operationalise the content of the WDR, but important work is still required to integrate its ideas fully into the Bank’s business practices”. It lists the Bank’s Strategic Framework paper, PRSPs and new global public goods initiatives as examples of positive changes. It pledges that the Bank will “step up its focus on improving governance, strengthening public sector institutions and reducing corruption, increase participation in project design, implementation and monitoring.” Revised operational guidance for staff needs to be written in areas such as: Country Assistance Strategies, Adjustment Lending, Social Analysis, Institutional Analysis, Poverty Reduction, Emergency Recovery. There will also be new strategies on: Rural Development, Private Sector Development and Gender.

The Bank recognises that “defining the Bank’s operational support for empowerment is especially challenging”. A forthcoming Guidance Note to Staff on Empowerment will, however, suggest improvements to participation in PRSPs, plus “actions to make information on policies, expenditures and their impact widely available”. New guidelines on Public Expenditure Reviews, and Institutional and Governance Reviews are being piloted. The Bank also pledges to provide support for the participation of poor people in global fora where key policy decisions (on trade, property rights, public good provision) are made. No details are given of how this will be achieved.

Whilst there are many worthy intentions and useful new initiatives in this report, the WDR does not seem to have informed the latest decisions on Bank budgets. A staff member in the Bank’s Social Development department commented: “we are getting substantially cut again (the third year in a row!). Another example of the gap between rhetoric and practice (budget allocations)”. The Board document on WDR operationalisation will be discussed by the Board on 12 June.

The pledges on the WDR are much less ambitious and detailed than a November 1999 paper produced by the WDR team. This outlined possible implications of the WDR‘s analysis, including:

  • Taking a much clearer and sharper view of the role of inequalities;
  • Support for a global program of removing gender bias in legislation

Operationalizing the WDR 2000/2001 can be obtained by emailing the Bretton Woods Project