Letter: How Africa uses World Bank aid

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am very sorry to find myself disagreeing with Michael Taylor. It is true that the impact of structural adjustment in promoting growth in Africa has been slight. But it is unhelpful to heap unspecific blame on the policies of the World Bank, with or without the International Monetary Fund, for the conditions of the poor in Africa and other countries, as he does.

Since these policies are only one influence on the economic conditions of the African poor, any analysis of their impact must be considered against the effect of other adverse forces, like falling commodity prices and rising world interest rates. In other words, the actual state of the poor must be compared with what it would have been had these policies not been adopted.

Mr Taylor simply assumes that all would be well. But it was the fact that high government spending was unsustainable that led Zimbabwe and other countries to apply to the Fund and the Bank in the first place.

Although I have criticised the World Bank for many things in my time, I have some sympathy with the Bank when faced by the type of criticism represented by Mr Taylor's letter. How are the interests of the African poor served by repeating it? Would not a more thoughtful and genuine partnership between Non-Governmental Organisations and the Bank in Africa be preferable?

Yours faithfully, JOHN TOYE Institute of Development Studies University of Sussex Brighton, East Sussex 24 October