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The same old wine in the same old bottles? Content, process and donor conditionalities of the PRSP1

Venkatesh Seshamani, University of Zambia

9-11 March 2005

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Introduction

Zambia has completed the implementation of her first Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, PRSP, for the period 2002 to 2004 and is currently in the process of formulating her second PRSP in sync with the First National Development Plan scheduled to commence in 2006. It is, therefore, time to take stock and see if the PRSP approach has made any significant change in addressing the most pressing issue of poverty and whether there are any visible signs of change in the condition of the poor since PRSP implementation began.

The formulation of the PRSP itself through a multi-stakeholder participatory process was a ‘conditionality’ imposed on several countries including Zambia for accessing concessional funds from the IMF and the World Bank. The purported idea was to create a home-grown poverty reduction and development strategy that would be country-owned and hence stand a better chance of success in its implementation and impact.

Several questions can be raised at this juncture:
  • Has the advent of the PRSP begun to make a major difference to the objective of achieving sustained poverty reduction in Zambia?
  • Is there now any semblance of national independence in implementing a truly national poverty reduction and development strategy without donor “interference” through conditionalities for their much-needed financial support?
  • Has the role of the IMF and the World Bank as the gatekeepers of Zambia’s development programs been significantly reduced so that Zambia can avail of bilateral assistance without worrying too much about the “green signal” of the IFIs?
In short, does the PRSP represent new wine in a new bottle or the same old wine in the same old bottle or some mix of the old and the new?

Footnote:

  1. This paper was presented during the conference on “Political Dimensions of Poverty Reduction – the Case of Zambia”, organised by the University of Zambia and the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), 9-11 March 2005. The paper draws significantly on several earlier works of the author that are cited in the references.


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