Abstract

The recent introduction of the poverty reduction strategy (PRS) represents a significant shift in development thinking. This chapter explains the background to the development of the PRS.1 It then shows how the PPA is relevant to the development of the poverty reduction strategy by focusing on four key features of the PRS that benefit from direct consultations with the poor: poverty analysis, consultation during formulation of the strategy, monitoring of implementation, and evaluation of outcomes.

The recent introduction of the poverty reduction strategy (PRS) represents a significant shift in development thinking. This chapter explains the background to the development of the PRS.1 It then shows how the PPA is relevant to the development of the poverty reduction strategy by focusing on four key features of the PRS that benefit from direct consultations with the poor: poverty analysis, consultation during formulation of the strategy, monitoring of implementation, and evaluation of outcomes.

Background to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper

During the 1990s, governments and civil society saw an increasing need to change the way that countries develop and implement national poverty reduction strategies. This recognition was based on the fundamental idea that to substantially reduce poverty, it is essential to implement both policies that promote growth, and social policies and sectoral programs that directly improve the living conditions of the poor. This approach and emphasis on policies to reduce poverty were also behind the launch of the enhanced HIPC Initiative at the G7 Summit in Cologne in mid-1999, which made debt relief conditional on the formulation of a poverty reduction framework. The approach responded to the concerns of many civil society organizations, including the Jubilee 2000 international debt campaign.

After the East Asian crisis, the World Bank introduced the comprehensive development framework (CDF) 1999, which focused on a more holistic approach to development. The CDF seeks a better balance in policymaking by highlighting the interdependence of all elements of development—social, structural, human, governance, environmental, economic, and financial. It emphasizes partnerships between governments, donors, civil society, the private sector, and other development actors. Perhaps most important, the country leads the process, both owning and directing the development agenda, with the Bank and other partners each defining their support in their respective country plans.

The CDF and other donor frameworks provided the basis for introducing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). In September 1999, the World Bank and the IMF agreed to major changes in their operations to help low-income countries achieve sustainable poverty reduction (see box 16). Henceforth, programs supported by the two institutions will be based on country-driven poverty reduction strategies (PRSs), developed in consultation with civil society and summarized in PRSPs. The PRSPs also provide the basis for debt relief under the enhanced HIPC Initiative as well as for all World Bank and IMF concessional lending (see figure 8).2

Figure 8.
Figure 8.

PRSP Operational Linkages

Why PRSPs Are Different

  • PRSs are locally generated and owned national strategies formulated through a wide participatory dialogue within government and throughout society. Although participation is now widely accepted at the project level, PRSPs are different because participation is focused at the policymaking level. There is no blueprint for participation—an understanding of the political economy of policy choice and policy change will result in different participation strategies.

  • Poverty analysis includes direct consultation with the poor through, for example, a PPA. Including the poor increases the understanding that poverty reduction requires a long-term and multidimensional approach, in which growth is a necessary but insufficient condition for sustained poverty reduction. The PRS focuses on how to target institutional and policy change that will enable poor people to participate in achieving and benefiting from growth.

  • Public spending and choices of costed alternative public actions are more closely linked to poverty analysis within a stable macroeconomic environment over a time frame of at least three years.

  • The effectiveness of public actions and expenditure plans is monitored through country-determined poverty outcome indicators, which depend on participation to improve accountability in implementation.

  • PRSs encourage accountability of governments to their own people and domestic constituencies rather than to external funders; the poor to become active participants, not just passive recipients; and donors to provide more predictable medium-term financial support for domestic budgets.

Civic engagement in the PRS process is important for the following reasons:

  1. Experience has shown that widening consultation in national policymaking can build ownership of policies and actions (including both political and administrative commitment).

  2. Participation can also contribute to more accountable government. Transparency is increased when the public have a better understanding of government processes; institutions are strengthened and accountable; the poor are more informed about government’s commitment to tackling key poverty issues; and governments are held accountable to their domestic constituencies for actual performance.

  3. Building the role and capacity of nonstate institutions through participation can balance the power of the state.

  4. In the process of consultation, civil society organizations can provide specialist and local knowledge to improve the quality of policymaking. Although not all civil society organizations are representative and some are politically aligned, some genuinely represent the views of poorer citizens and interest groups.

  5. The poor are empowered through bringing their analysis, priorities, and voice into the decisionmaking process, thereby making the policy framework more relevant and responsive to their needs.

  6. Equity and social integration are promoted through appreciation of varied needs within society (by geographic region, gender, ethnic and age group, and so on). Participation can lead to creating durable, inclusive political systems (which are particularly important in ethnically diverse societies).

  7. Partnerships can be built between governments, business, and civil society groups, leading to joint actions to achieve poverty reduction goals.

How to Include the Poor in the PRSP Process: Operational Implications

Preliminary Steps for Consultation in the PRS Process

Participation is a complex political process; thus, several important preliminary steps should be taken in planning a nationwide participatory process. First, understanding the policy environment, the government’s degree of openness and its commitment to poverty reduction, is a key starting point. Since political structures can determine the extent of participation, political obstacles to implementing pro-poor policies should be understood. Second, conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify stakeholders, evaluate their interests and capacities, and determine what type of participatory process will best incorporate their views.

Third, drafting participation action plans can be a useful tool to detail the path for participation, promote discussion and consensus about who should be involved, and provide a basis for monitoring progress. These plans vary from country to country, depending on the political context and the extent of participation the government feels is appropriate. An action plan can define the boundaries of participation and therefore enable the public to have more realistic expectations. In some countries, narrow participation (even only within government) may be more appropriate at the beginning of the process. Initially, all views may not be accepted by government, but even a limited debate can present new knowledge, improve the quality of policymaking, and ultimately broaden the support for policy implementation. Different groups, such as parliament, local government, local representative bodies, civil society organizations, private sector groups, and the poor, can be gradually included in the process at a later stage. The participation action plan should build on existing elected and democratic bodies and processes (such as the budget cycle) to strengthen—not undermine—the local electoral process. The ideal process for selecting groups to include in the consultation involves joint decisionmaking by the government and civil society organizations. Transparent decisions about who participates, and when and how, will add legitimacy to the participatory process.

Fourth, key areas for building capacity also need to be identified at the beginning of the process. These include the government’s capacity to carry forward a reform process; the capacity of civil society organizations to be increasingly involved in the macroeconomic debate; and the capacity of the judiciary, the legislature, and the media to be more effective. Finally, information about the planned participation process needs to be disseminated at the beginning, within government and to the public, in order to inform civil society of their expected involvement. Such dissemination can be promoted through media involvement, where politically feasible.

Entry Points for Including the Poor in PRSs

There are four key stages in the PRS cycle where PPAs can be a useful tool for reaching the poor and eliciting their views, which can then be incorporated into the PRS.

  1. Poverty analysis. The PRS can incorporate information from the PPA on the multidimensional aspects and causes of poverty.

  2. Formulation and dissemination of the PRSP. The priorities of the poor should be reflected in the goals set forth in the PRSP. This can include the sequencing of public actions, including macroeconomic and structural reforms, the choice of indicators for monitoring implementation of poverty reduction strategies, and budget allocations.

  3. Monitoring the implementation of the PRS. The PPA can provide policymakers with information on the effectiveness and relevance of both poverty reduction strategies and the institutions that implement them, as well as delivery of the budget and quality of services.

  4. Evaluating outcomes of the PRS. Outcomes reported during the PPA should be integrated with other data on outcomes gathered from other sources, and used to inform decisions about whether to change policies and budget allocation.

Below are examples of various country processes that may be strengthened by widening government and civic participation.

Participation in poverty analysis

As described in chapter 2, including the poor in the diagnosis of poverty can deepen our understanding of the many dimensions of poverty. One of the key questions in the Joint Staff Assessment Guidelines3 is “whether the poor have been consulted (for example, by conducting a participatory poverty assessment), and how these results have been utilized and combined with household survey data.” This highlights the increased importance placed on including PPAs in poverty analysis by the Bank and the Fund.

Participation in macroeconomic policy formulation

National level dialogue can promote a public debate around national policies, strengthen political participation, and support good governance. In many countries formulating PRSs, participation has been organized through convening national and regional workshops (which include locally elected officials, the private sector, unions, and the like), as well as through dialogue with community groups, specialized focus group meetings, media discussions (radio, newspapers), traditional forums (village heads, district chiefs meetings), and direct consultations with the poor through a PPA. Many countries have used existing forums for consultation. For example, in Uganda, the PRSP was discussed at national and regional meetings originally convened to promote members of parliament’s involvement in the budgeting process. In Tanzania, PRSP discussions are linked to the participatory public expenditure review process.

Consultation in formulating the PRS presents an opportunity for the public to engage in new areas that previously were not always in the public domain, such as the poverty and distributional impacts of reforms; environmental impacts of reforms; and links between growth and poverty, including issues of equity. Where possible, such assessments can use multiple data sources, including PPAs. The information could help inform an assessment of alternative policy options and appropriate sequencing. Both before and after assessments are useful for policymakers and civil society when they discuss alternative reforms and sequencing in light of the potential impacts on various vulnerable groups.

In many countries, the capacity to have a dialogue on such issues remains limited. Uganda is the exception. The Ugandan Debt Network, one of the groups representing civil society on the Drafting Committee of Uganda’s PRSP, debates these issues. Further, the information in Uganda’s PRSP stimulated some debate around difficult policy tradeoffs, although still more work is required.

Participation in the budgeting process

PPAs can help provide policymakers with a better understanding of the priorities of the poor. Further, negotiation among different interest groups on various public action choices can lead to broader ownership and wider consensus (see box 7 for ways the poor can influence the budget). Certain steps can be taken to increase participation in the budget process:

  1. The PRSP should present various aggregate spending scenarios to reveal tradeoffs among different macroeconomic and fiscal policy options. With this information, groups can weigh the benefits of various options for the allocation of resources.

  2. Elected assemblies (national and local) and domestic interest groups should be included in the process of scrutinizing plans and budgets. Medium-term public spending plans, which influence annual budgets, can incorporate poverty reduction priorities, especially if processes are transparent and accountable. The expertise of parliamentary committees should be strengthened, so they can examine budgets with an understanding of tradeoffs.

  3. Where possible, budgets may be published—even at the local level. This can give people an understanding of what they should expect and could demand.

Participation in monitoring and evaluation

Participation in monitoring and evaluation can promote transparency and accountability and increase the ownership and acceptance of findings. Participatory research can enhance people’s awareness of their rights and strengthen the claims of the poor. For monitoring and evaluating the PRSs, data can be used from multiple sources beyond those usually controlled by government, such as specialized academic and NGO studies and PPAs.

There are several points of entry for participation in monitoring and evaluating the PRSP:

  1. Goal setting. Setting clear goals can promote a shared understanding of priorities, add transparency to the process of allocating resources, and provide a benchmark against which to monitor the success of policies.

  2. Selection of outcome and impact indicators. The PRSP should move from tracking disbursement to monitoring delivery of goods and services (number of school books received at the school, schools built), and then outcomes (literacy rates).

  3. Impact on beneficiaries. Participatory monitoring can be used to check that public services actually benefit intended beneficiaries.

Poverty Impact Assessments of Macroeconomic and Structural Reforms

Linking PPAs to the Macroeconomic Policy Dialogue

The PRSPs developed so far suggest that more needs to be done to develop an open and informed debate in PRSP countries around economic policies and structural reforms. This can be done in three ways: first, improve access to information; second, strengthen analysis of the poverty impacts of macroeconomic and structural reforms; and third, draw civil society groups into discussing these issues and build their capacity in this area.

The analysis of the poverty impacts of reforms should be an integral part of the development of PRSPs and of Bank and Fund-supported reforms, as it allows countries to evaluate different policy options before they are implemented, compensate groups that are adversely affected by policy changes, and reformulate policies that do not reduce poverty and increase growth. Analysis should be undertaken early in countries’ preparation of their PRSPs to contribute to the national debate on policy choice, monitoring, and evaluation.

Analysis of the poverty impacts of macroeconomic and structural policies is often limited because of a lack of data or, more commonly, data exist but are fragmented and underutilized. Further, there are often weak links between the poverty analysis and policy choices, so the Bank and the Fund, as well as governments and other donors, are giving this type of analysis high priority.

In the future, the challenge will be to integrate data from various methods (for example, household surveys, PPAs, NGO surveys, and incountry studies) to better understand the past impacts and potential impacts. In addition, donors could build the capacity of national institutions to provide training for civil society organizations in financial programming, the poverty impacts of macro reforms, and the analysis of policy tradeoffs. This would contribute toward a more informed public discussion, and respond to the request of some civil society groups for assistance in better understanding the economic debates.

Linking PPAs to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility

Programs supported by the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility will be modified to reflect the countries’ PRSs. Policies to be implemented under these programs will have a greater focus on growth and poverty reduction.4 However, research is needed into how programs and policy reforms affect the poor, particularly (a) macroeconomic adjustments, such as tax increases, reduction or elimination of subsidies, and exchange rate alignment; (b) structural reforms, such as liberalization and civil service reform; and (c) public expenditures. Traditional household surveys and PPAs, as well as data gathered through other research methods by various organizations, will be crucial to understanding the poverty and distributional impacts of reforms. Such analysis can lead to better and more pro-poor program design.

Country Examples of the Links between the PPAs and PRSPs

Summary of Participation in PRSPs

A major achievement of the PRSP initiative has been the recognition of the importance of government ownership. As a result, there is emerging, in most countries, a greater commitment to broader participation in policymaking and a more diverse dialogue on poverty issues through direct consultations with stakeholders, including poor communities. However, at this early stage, the process of participation in the PRSPs is in a developmental phase. For example, some full PRSPs were completed with limited time to develop full participation beyond consultation. Full participation would have helped to ensure that the PRSPs benefited fully from the participatory process. The guidelines for the full PRSP state that there is no time limit for the completion of a full PRSP and the timing should be determined by the government. The World Bank and IMF Boards have also stressed that the quality of PRSPs should not be sacrificed to speed of preparation and countries have been encouraged to take the necessary time required. Some CSOs have argued that the link between the PRSP process and the HIPC Initiative has affected the quality of participatory processes. For full PRSPs, it would be useful to develop milestones that indicate progress in the participatory process. The interim PRSPs (I-PRSPs) do not require full participation as the main objective of the interim strategy is to detail a plan to develop the full PRSP. However, in the interim PRSP, there should be some consultation on developing a participation plan for the full PRSPs.

Some CSOs have questioned the concept of ownership in some countries where the Fund and the Bank retain a strong influence over the final document. CSOs have also stressed the importance of greater public discussion in the choice of macroeconomic and structural reforms. As stated above, this will require more detailed poverty impact analysis of past and future reforms. It would also be useful if the rationale for policy choices and tradeoffs was made more explicit in PRSPs as well as in IMF and World Bank documents. Finally, it would be important to continue the ongoing efforts to adapt macroeconomic frameworks in a flexible manner to integrate the main poverty reduction objectives arising from the consultation process.

Current Status of the Links between the PPAs and PRSPs

Table 11 provides a summary of the impact of PPAs on recent PRSPs. To date, 38 PRSPs have been completed, of which 4 are full and 34 are interim PRSPs. The impact of the PPAs on PRSPs is varied and has been mainly dependent on (a) how recently the PPA was undertaken, (b) the level of involvement of key policymakers in the PPA, and (c) technical advice given to the government from donors in formulating the PRS.

Table 11.

Impact of PPAs on Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

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Note: The data for this table were drawn from the interim and full PRS papers. In some countries (such as Cameroon), the PPA had a more extensive impact than was documented in the strategy papers.

PPA used as a method to include the poor as part of the participation plan for the formulation of the interim or full PRSP.

PPA results used in the PRSP’s poverty diagnosis.

Priorities of the poor identified in PPA influenced budget and/or public actions identified in the PRSP.

Choice of goals and monitoring indicators influenced by PPA data.

At this early stage, it is not expected that PPAs will have a significant impact on I-PRSPs, since the interim guidelines do not specify the direct participation of the poor, the identification of a full set of priority public actions, or the selection of indicators.5 Such inputs are only expected as part of the full PRSP. However, many PPAs are already having an impact on both the full and interim PRSPs. The impacts fall into four main areas: (a) formulation of the PRSP, (b) poverty analysis in the PRSP, (c) budget priorities and public actions set out in the PRSP, and (d) PRSP indicators.

The impact of the PPA in each of these areas has varied greatly, but table 11 is useful for a first glance. For example, out of the 38 countries that have completed interim or full PRSPs, 28 (73 percent) have in the past conducted a participatory analysis of poverty that included direct consultations with poor communities. Of these 28 countries, 10 (42 percent) used the PPA as part of the consultation process to include the poor in formulation of the PRSP (see column 1). Fourteen of the 28 countries (50 percent) referred to the results of the participatory poverty analysis in their analysis of poverty (see column 2). In Uganda, Vietnam, Lao, and Niger, the data from the PPA were used to a greater degree: the priorities of the poor identified in the PPA were also reflected in the budget and/or public actions (see column 3). Finally, in Uganda and Guinea, the selection of indicators for the PRSP was influenced by PPA data (see column 4). Out of the 38 full and interim PRSPs, 17 countries (45 percent) stated in their PRSPs that they intend to undertake a PPA in the future.

Case Examples

Uganda and Vietnam are cases where the PPA process is effectively linked to the PRSP (see appendix E and Norton 2001 for more details on the Uganda example, and Turk 2001 for more details on the Vietnam example). Both PPAs were designed to have a greater impact than simply providing information and, as a result, were linked to other established processes, such as budgeting, decentralization and planning at the local level, and household surveys.

In Vietnam, the PPA finding that poor people had a lack of information about their legal rights was included in the I-PRSP as an issue that needed to be addressed. In Uganda, the government implemented the Uganda Participatory Poverty Assessment Project (the UPPAP) in 1998 and 1999, in which the poor in rural and urban areas were directly consulted. The results of the UPPAP have been used by policymakers in Uganda’s Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP)/PRSP, as detailed in table 12.

Table 12.

How the Poor Influenced the PRSP in Uganda

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Note: This table is based on Bird and Kakande (2001)

A two-way information flow can strengthen policymaking, with upward flows (data generated from PPAs) presented to policymakers, and downward flows (information about government policy and budget choice) put into the public arena to better inform communities (McGee and Norton 2000). For example, in Uganda, the UPPAP presented information to policymakers, who fed it into the budgeting process.

In turn, the government increased communities’ access to budget data by publishing allocations at the local level, thereby increasing transparency. This gave people a better understanding of what they should expect and what they could demand.

Next Steps for PPAs

From the analysis of the links between the PPAs and the PRSPs, four areas are emerging as important for the next round of PPAs:

  1. In the past, PPAs have presented clear data on sectors that poor people consider to be a priority (such as access to health care, education, and potable water). The next step for new PPAs is to detail priorities within these identified sectors to help policymakers make more informed public action choices. In addition, new PPAs should identify within the sectors the critical mechanisms, including appropriate institutions, that are likely to be the most effective and efficient for implementation and service delivery to the poor.

  2. In many countries, PPA findings have raised civic engagement in the policy dialogue. But many PPAs have been narrow bureaucratic requirements to develop policy options, rather than part of ongoing processes to influence policy. The next step is for PPAs to assist in developing the capacity of civil society to better negotiate policy options with the government. To support this and to develop an independent civic engagement process around poverty issues (that would include mass communications and other informationbased media), PPAs could provide information to civil society. Such findings from PPAs could catalyze the debate and dialogue on poverty issues and, in so doing, could move PPAs beyond one-time, restricted surveys. PPAs could also be used to sensitize parliamentarians and other political leadership to poverty dimensions and outcomes.

  3. Most PPA findings are not prioritized in the light of resource constraints and are not used for decisionmaking about resource allocation, spending, and performance across sectors. The next step is to link the findings of PPAs to public action choices with the objective of influencing national budgets.

  4. Many PPAs have produced valuable new data on poverty. The next step is to institutionalize the approach to ensure that PPAs become part of a participatory monitoring system that influences public action choices over time. The challenge now is to move from isolated PPA research studies to ensuring that PPA consultations become part of the broader national policy dialogue and political decisionmaking, as well as part of a system to monitor the implementation of the commitments made by governments and donors.

The Challenge for PPAs

The moral imperative for giving the poor a voice in the poverty debate is self-evident. The bonus is that engaging with the poor also leads to better technical diagnosis of problems and better design and implementation of solutions. Through PPAs, the poor deepen our understanding of poverty and can influence policymaking. This new approach challenges traditional power relations and calls for a variety of partnerships that require trust, openness, and integrity.

Both poverty and policy change are inherently linked to the political process in any country. But when undertaken in an environment of increased trust, PPAs can present opportunities for a more open dialogue and greater understanding between the powerless and those in power.

Notes

1.

This chapter is based on “How the Poor Can Have a Voice in Government Policy” (Robb 2000).

2.

The PRS is presented to both the IMF and World Bank Executive Boards, which make a judgment as to whether the PRS provides the basis for the institutions’ assistance. The staff of the Fund and the Bank provide the Boards with a joint staff assessment of the PRS.

5.

The differences between a full and an interim PRSP are defined in World Bank and IMF (1999).

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