What the World Bank Means by Poverty Reduction Essay

11433 Words Mar 25th, 2016 46 Pages
What the World Bank Means by Poverty Reduction

Paul Cammack


Critics of the World Bank have variously attributed its proclaimed commitment to poverty reduction to empty rhetoric, hypocrisy, incompetence, confusion, or overload in the absence of a coherent agenda. This article argues that the commitment is genuine, but that it is not a first order goal: poverty reduction is an intended consequence of its principal objective, the transformation of social and governmental relations and institutions in the developing world in order to generalize and facilitate capitalist accumulation on a global scale, and build capitalist hegemony through the promotion of tightly controlled forms of 'participation' and
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As a result, countries seeking debt relief through the HIPC scheme must produce interim and full Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and negotiate approval for them from the
Bank. Great emphasis is placed throughout the process on ‘country ownership’, the participation of civil society, and consultation with donor countries and NGOs. Over the same period the Bank has reformed its internal structures and changed the way in which it works with debtor countries and development partners. It now designates itself a ‘Knowledge Bank’, and places particular emphasis upon its expertise and its capacity to provide objective and disinterested policy advice directed towards the alleviation of poverty. The dream of ‘a world free of poverty’ headlines the
Bank’s mission statement, and is central to the image of itself it promotes (Granzow 2000; see also http://www.worldbank.org/ourdream). However, in spite of the lead given to indebted countries in the shaping of programmes, and the participation from an early stage of donor countries and NGOs, scepticism regarding the Bank’s commitment to both poverty reduction and partnership is widespread. Critics characterize the conversion of the Bank to poverty reduction as confused and incomplete, denounce the largely market-oriented policies still advocated, and question the character and extent of country ownership and local participation, asserting that behind the rhetoric the Bank still keeps tight

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