Results belie Africa 'success'

THE World Bank is claiming that its controversial economic reform programmes in Africa are working, but admits that no African country has yet achieved a sound macroeconomic policy.

In its first full-scale report on Africa since many African countries adopted fundamental economic reforms in the 1980s, the World Bank says that out of 29 countries examined in its study published yesterday, 11 had actually deteriorated since adopting a reform programme and nine showed only a small improvement.

The market-orientated reform programmes imposed by donors on African countries have been strongly criticised by some African governments and economists for cutting public spending and impoverishing urban professionals and other waged groups.

Out of almost 300 pages the report only devotes one paragraph to these criticisms, saying that the majority of the poor are probably better off and almost certainly no worse off in countries that have adopted reform.

In its own terms - the establishment of a market- friendly set of incentives to encourage the accumulation of capital - the World Bank says that those who most improved their macroeconomic policies enjoyed the greatest economic improvement.

There has been confusion, says the report, about whether Africa's poor economic record since adjustment programmes were adopted represents 'a failure to adjust or a failure of adjustment'. This confusion has led some opponents of adjustment to criticise it as an alternative to measures supporting long-term development. The resulting sterile debate has led to pessimism among African countries, a pessimism that is unwarranted, says the World Bank.

Adjustment in Africa - Reforms, Results and the Road Ahead. A World Bank Policy Research Report

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