ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Old Words, New Tunes

WEEKLYECONOMIC AND POLITICAL Old Words, New Tunes The radical demand of the revolutions that swept through Europe in the 19th century had been universal adult franchise. That seems old hat today, at least in principle

The radical demand of the revolutions that swept through Europe in the 19th century had been universal adult franchise. That seems old hat today, at least in principle – in practice, certain subaltern groups are not allowed to exercise their franchise even now. Fifty years ago, a programme to break up feudal landlordism, redistribute land, end oppression of women and ethnic minorities and to empower the poor and the disinherited was considered radical. Today, that has become mainstream development theory, as represented by the The World Development Report (WDR) of the World Bank.

WDR is an influential document, as it represents the latest stage of evolution in mainstream development thinking. The latest offering breaks new ground by suggesting a strategy for combating poverty that even traditional Left parties would be hard put to quarrel with. The strategy has three components: create opportunities for the poor, empower them and provide them with security. The World Bank accepts that there can be no universal blueprint for translating this strategy into an action programme – it would have to depend on the specificities of each country. And only when the country owns its development agenda can it hope to succeed in implementing it. This marks a major departure from the Bank’s thinking of the 1980s, when the Bank and the Fund evolved the strategy of attaching stiff conditionality to their loans. And this conditionality tended to be uniform, paying scant attention to the specificities of each country.

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