Letter: World Bank is not helping Africa

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The Independent Online
Sir: The litany of spiralling prices, lack of health and education services and rural hardship described by Martin Lichomwa to your reporter in Zambia ('IMF squeeze tests the patience of Zambians', 21 October) sadly applies to a host of other countries, in Africa and elsewhere, undergoing structural adjustment at the behest of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Structural adjustment is supposed to lead to economic growth, but, even judged by the IMF and World Bank's own criteria, it too often fails. The IMF's recent World Economic Outlook shows that real per capita incomes in Africa actually fell by more than 8 per cent in the four years to 1993, confirming Christian Aid's fears that a 'fourth world' is being Social development must be a crucial part of economic strategy. Stringent cuts in public expenditure - a key element of structural adjustment packages -harm poor families and set back the development of countries such as Zambia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, the Philippines and Zimbabwe, to name but a few.

For example, in the Eighties, Zimbabwe increased its education and health spending by 30 per cent. But from 1990 to 1993, the first three years of structural adjustment there, schools and health spending per person dropped substantially. Fees that prohibit poor families from sending their children to school are, in the words of one elderly Zimbabwean speaking to Christian Aid, 'cutting our children off from their future'.

As in Zambia, democracy can be undermined by the unpopular austerity measures imposed on governments by the IMF and World Bank. What, people ask, does democracy mean when, no matter who gets elected, it is the World Bank and IMF that seem to run the country?

Yours faithfully, MICHAEL TAYLOR Director Christian Aid London, SE1 21 October