Intended for healthcare professionals


Poverty reduction strategy papers

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 21 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:120

It's too soon to say whether this new approach to aid will improve health

  1. Ellen Verheul (, project officer, economic policy and health programme,
  2. Mike Rowson (, director
  1. Wemos, Postbus 1693, 1000BR Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. Medact, London N19 4DJ

    See also apers p 139 and Education and debate p 152

    A path out of abject poverty is currently being beaten by many low income countries which are developing poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) as a condition for debt relief. This new acronym in the alphabet soup of international aid is the latest lifeline being offered by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund after what many regard as the failure of its predecessor, the structural adjustment programme (SAP). By May, 33 interim and four full poverty reduction strategy papers had been developed: do they offer genuine hope to low income countries or are they the same old approaches under a new name?

    Structural adjustment was characterised by economic policies such as devaluation and public expenditure reduction coupled with longer term structural reforms such as privatisation and trade liberalisation. It has been blamed for rising food prices, closed schools, and massive lay offs and for delivering the final blow to creaking health systems. Poverty reduction strategies instead offer good intentions such as “national ownership,” “less dictation from Washington,” …

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