September 22nd, 2010 | 5 Comments
Aadil Mansoor, Herald
In the last decade Pakistan has devised at least three poverty reduction strategies meant to be used as tools for setting economic policy with the aim, at least in theory, of alleviating poverty. But their performance has made it clear that meeting the needs of the country’s poorest continues to take a back seat to goals such as rapid economic growth and fulfilling the requirements of international donors. The strategies have been aimed at ensuring that Pakistan continues to receive much-needed support from international lenders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Their success or failure, too, has depended on external factors like the global economic environment and Pakistan’s geopolitical role in the world.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) were first developed in 1999, initiated by the IMF and the World Bank after widespread failures of the structural adjustment programmes they had developed for various countries in the 1990s. Contrary to these programmes – criticized for being top-down and lacking sensitivity to national priorities – the PRSPs were developed by national governments and had poverty reduction as their central goal. The core principles of the approach were that the strategies should be country-driven, result-orientated, comprehensive, partnership-oriented and have a long-term perspective.
Driven by the urgency for debt relief from international lenders in the middle of a balance of payments crisis, Pakistan adopted the process in 2000 by setting up a PRSP Secretariat in the Finance Division. The secretariat’s location in the finance ministry made it clear that the PRSP was, first and foremost, a means of attracting foreign lending. The secretariat hastened to develop an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) for 2001-2003. Notwithstanding the primary purpose, which was to qualify for IMF and World Bank funding, the IPRSP was greeted...