International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 49: The international financial institutions, structural adjustment and poverty reduction
The global financial crisis of 2008 has brought the international financial institutions (IFIs), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and their adjustment policies back into the spotlight of global economic governance. Long criticised for the socially harmful impacts of some of their neoliberal policy prescriptions, the IFIs responded in the early 2000s with a major policy overhaul of their lending practices, introducing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approach. The PRSP approach was supposed to formally replace structural adjustment by ensuring country ownership and civil society participation in all aspects of policy development and programme implementation. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the IFIs further modified some of their lending programmes to respond to the challenging macro-economic and fiscal environment that it created. This chapter traces these recent policy changes inside the IFIs and discusses their various gender impacts. It argues that structural adjustment has become more poverty-sensitive over time, especially by linking debt relief administered through the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC II) Initiative to the delivery of basic social services to the poor as part of the PRSP process. Nevertheless, poverty reduction and its social agenda, rather than being opposed to the neoliberal vision, have become important addenda to market-enabling reforms, and have therefore not overcome many of the negative gender impacts of previous generations of SAPs.
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