Save the Children Fund UK (SC UK) bases its briefing paper for the PRSP review on experience in its programmes in 25 countries engaged in the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process. It received submissions from 14 of these countries including Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania in the SADC region. SC UK welcomes the space opened by the World Bank and IMF ‘for countries to develop policy choices based on the real needs of poor people,’ but raises three broad areas of concern. (SC UK, p3)
9.1 Ownership and participation
The pressure to complete the process and qualify for debt relief ‘can harm the quality of civil society participation and miss out on valuable insights on poverty reduction’ This may also limit the extent of ownership of the final document. To be truly participatory, development strategies must take the views of poor people seriously and reflect them in strategies.
- The World Bank and IMF should ensure that there is enough time for broad civil society participation and that the variety of views expressed is reflected in the final PRSP text.
- Seek strategies to resolve the tension between qualifying for debt relief and participation.
9.2 Including all civil society
Children, young people and older people, women, minority groups and the disabled are being left out of discussions despite the insights they have into their own situation. The individual poor, smaller, less well resourced groups including NGOs, religious groups and trade unions, and other marginalised groups need to be recognised and directly involved in the PRSP process. Some countries have ignored poverty strategies produced by civil society that contain a rich variety of information and initiatives.
- The World Bank, IMF and governments should create space and time for marginalised groups to participate in formulating and monitoring PRSPs.
- Government should include the insights of smaller, less well organised civil society groups through Participatory Poverty Assessments, hearings and consultations and should recognise parallel participatory processes
9.3 Policy content
The PRS approach was designed to achieve a better match between macro economic policy and poverty reduction. However there is little consideration of macro economic and structural policy alternatives. This is necessary for national ownership. There is also little explicit analysis of the social impact of particular policy choices and mechanisms for assessing the impact of policy choices are not specified. The importance of tackling childhood poverty for long term poverty reduction does not get enough attention. Despite high economic growth projections that should provide adequate financing many countries plan to retain user fees to help finance social services. Only a few (including Malawi) have abolished or limited certain user fees. Most Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (I-PRSPs) and PRSPs don’t give enough attention to effective social safety nets to protect poor people.
- Encourage governments to include civil society economic as well as social policy discussions, and provide time and training to help them participate effectively.
- All PRSPs should include:
- before and after social impact assessments based on qualitative and
quantitative information, including participatory assessments.
- poverty data disaggregated by age and gender, including analysis of childhood poverty
- action plans for reducing childhood poverty through providing tangible benefits at household level supported by national policy.
- PRSPs must ensure that children and young people’s rights to health care and education are not compromised by inability to pay user fees. Where reallocation, growth and revenue collection do not provide enough resources for key basic services, governments and donors should move away from user fees towards greater risk pooling.
- PRSPS should contain a commitment to develop effective safety nets for the poor and vulnerable, and IFIs should raise ceilings on social expenditure put in place to control fiscal deficits if necessary.