IFI governance


Bank trade evaluation: assume the position

24 May 2004

The World Bank Operations Evaluation Department’s plan for an evaluation of Bank assistance on trade shies away from many of the key issues according to ChristianAid.

The evaluation framework is premised on the assumption that trade liberalisation leads to growth which will in turn, in the long run, lead to poverty reduction. The link between trade liberalisation, growth and poverty reduction, says Claire Melamed, is “assumed to be sufficiently strong that poverty measures are rarely mentioned as an indicator of the success or failure of Bank trade assistance.” Instead it is assumed that indicators such as export performance and trade balance are sufficient.

The evaluation sets itself five specific questions:

  • What was the impact of Bank assistance on specific outcomes such as import liberalisation?
  • Was the Bank’s advised speed and sequencing of reforms appropriate?
  • Did the Bank advice take key external factors into account?
  • Was the Bank’s support accompanied by appropriate policy and institutional reforms?
  • Did the Bank’s assistance on trade focus on poverty and distributional outcomes?

Missed is the opportunity to address more fundamental questions about the political economy of trade policy choices. Was the choice of trade liberalisation itself appropriate – did the Bank allow sufficient space for the consideration of alternative trade policy options? And has Bank influence weakened the domestic capacity for trade policy analysis or diminished the role of other international agencies?

After over a year spent off-track, a scoping workshop was finally held last December in Tanzania, leading to the release of an approach paper in mid-March. A series of regional consultations are now underway. The evaluation itself will involve a literature review, a review of the Bank’s portfolio of trade programmes, the creation of thematic background papers and country case studies in Brazil, Indonesia, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, Senegal and Zambia. The final product is to be presented to the board in mid 2005.