Previous PageTable of ContentsNext Page

3. Poverty reduction strategy papers, national development plans and the fisheries sector

The expectation that PRSPs provide a more comprehensive and integrated approach to development planning does not negate the opportunity for specific sectors to advance their own partisan interests. That said, the extent to which the fisheries sector (or indeed, any sector) is incorporated into a PRSP or National Development Plan (NDP) will depend on the national economic, sociopolitical, structural and cultural context. In the preceding section those APFIC countries in which growth and equity considerations might feasibly ensure the sector’s incorporation into the national development agenda were identified. Now, the extent of such incorporation through an analysis of PRSPs and NDPs for the APFIC economies is examined using a variant of the assessment methodology suggested by Ekbom and Bojö (1997).

A. Assessment methodology

Ekbom and Bojö (1997), inspired by earlier work by Bojö and Chee (1995), the World Bank (1996) and Loksha (1996), elaborated an elementary filter of thirteen criteria grouped into five sequential sections as an aide-mémoire for evaluating the extent to which the environment had been incorporated into World Bank Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) documents. Not only did the exercise conclude that environmental issues had made some inroads into CAS documentation, but it also concluded that there existed a “rich flora of inspiring examples” of effective environmental mainstreaming which was potentially transferable. Modified versions of Ekbom and Bojö’s assessment framework were later applied to examine the extent to which the environment had been integrated into CAS produced in 1999 (Shyamsundar et al ., 2001) and PRSPs (Bojö and Reddy, 2001), again highlighting examples of good practice. Oksanen and Mersmann subsequently adapted the methodology to evaluate the extent to which a renewable resource sector - in this instance forestry - had been included in Sub-Saharan African PRSPs, finding:

“… in general the sector was incorporated in a rather modest and unsystematic manner. The analysis of the cause and effect linkages between the forest sector and poverty and the treatment of forest related issues was generally weak. Considering this, surprisingly many forest-related responses and actions were proposed in the poverty reduction programmes” (2002: 123).

Earlier research by the present author and others (Thorpe, 2005; Thorpe et al., 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2006) has utilized Oksanen and Mersmann’s methodology, in effect substituting fish for forest, to analyse the extent of fisheries mainstreaming across different regions. This paper is an extension of that work, focusing specifically on the extent to which fisheries have been integrated into the PRSPs and NDPs produced by APFIC member countries. Box 2 outlines the assessment methodology applied, and the scoring scale deployed to produce the results outlined in the following sub-section.

Box 2. Assessment methodology applied

Criteria 1 (Issue): Were fisheries related issues included in the analysed documents?

Criteria 2 (Causal Links): Were the causal linkages between fishery-related issues and poverty related issues analysed in the documents?

Criteria 3 (Responses): Were fisheries related responses and actions defined in the documents?

Criteria 4 (Process): Were links between the document formulation process and fisheries related policy and planning processes detailed in the document?

Each of the four criteria was given a numeric value where:

0 = no mention
1 = mentioned, but not elaborated upon
2 = elaborated
3 = best practice

This permits an average aggregate score to be computed for each analysed document, values ranging from 0 (sector is not mentioned in the document at all) to 3 (best practice evident on all four counts).

B. Analysis of key national policy documents

Six APFIC countries have completed a PRSP, namely Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka11 and Viet Nam, with Cambodia, Nepal and Viet Nam also producing progress reports outlining how the PRSP is being implemented. NDPs were analysed for a further four countries (India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand).12 The inclusion of fisheries-related issues in APFIC PRSPs and NDPs is to be expected given the Asian contribution to capture fisheries (half of the world’s twelve leading fish harvesting nations are APFIC members), aquaculture (91 percent of global production), participation in the fishery sector (85 percent of world total) and fleet size (84 percent of the world’s decked vessels, 51 percent of powered undecked vessels and 83 percent of non-powered boats) (FAO, 2002b). This indeed proves to be the case, with fisheries featuring highly in the PRSPs/NDPs of Bangladesh, Cambodia and the Philippines, less so in the NDPs of India and Malaysia, and not at all in the PRSPs of Nepal and Pakistan (Appendix 2 provides a detailed analysis of national policy agendas for each country.13

Eight of the ten national policy documents analysed address fisheries issues, although in the case of Thailand this is somewhat superficial as the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan 2002–06 simply acknowledges that the unsustainable exploitation of fisheries has impacted unfavourably on biodiversity and ecosystem balance. More emphasis is given to fisheries issues in the NDPs of India and Malaysia and the PRSPs of Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The Indian and Malaysian documents both provide a summary of past sectoral growth. The Indian document links the sector to a strategy designed to strengthen agriculture and agro-industry through increased commercialization, large-scale production and the establishment of new (private) consortia to exploit deep-sea stocks and provide port facilities. The Malaysian document appears more cognizant of ensuring increased fisheries production to meet the nutritional needs of the poor. Viet Nam’s PRSP has parallels with the Malaysian NDP inasmuch as the emphasis is on growth via the exploitation of the country’s comparative advantage in aquaculture and offshore seafood production, although concerns are also expressed about a series of anti-dumping actions that have been initiated against the country as a consequence of its growing catfish/shrimp exports. In contrast, the Sri Lankan PRSP details how the civil war has adversely affected the country’s fishing communities.

Table 2. Extent to which the fisheries sector is included in the PRSPs and national development plans of developing APFIC states








India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam

Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Philippines



India, Malaysia

Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam

Bangladesh, the Philippines




Bangladesh, India,
the Philippines,
Sri Lanka, Viet Nam





 the Philippines,

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka


* The average is computed with reference to the ten APFIC countries for which there were either PRSPs or NDPs.

Three outstanding accounts of fisheries issues within the APFIC region are provided by the Bangladesh and Cambodian PRSPs, and the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004–10 (MTPDP). The Cambodian PRSP addresses aquaculture, fisheries management, livelihood improvement, and community fisheries in separate sections, with frequent other references helping to mainstream fisheries issues throughout the document. For Bangladesh, agriculture is a priority sector in the poverty reduction strategy. A separate section details how fisheries fit into this strategy and how the government plans to accelerate sectoral growth and respond to the particular concerns (viz. prohibiting the use of electrical nets and developing legislation to allow the leasing out of kha ponds) that were raised by fisheries stakeholders in the participatory process that took place prior to the publication of the PRSP. The Philippines MTPDP 2004–10 builds on the emphasis given to the sector in the preceding MTPDP 2001–04, proposing that Mindanao become the national agro-fisheries hub tasked with developing the export-growth potential of the sector through exploiting idle offshore and inland waters. It also advocates large-scale community-based programmes to intensify and diversify production. Moreover, the document is interspersed with numerous references to the sector regarding the resolution of property rights conflicts within fisheries, educational programmes for fisherfolk, introducing improved information systems and highlighting the threats posed to marine/coastal areas by destructive fishing methods, siltation, pollution etc. (Best Practice).

Causal links between fishery-related and poverty-related issues are mentioned in seven of the ten documents. However, the Ninth Malaysian Plan 2006–10 does no more than acknowledge that 70000 poor families (many of them fisherfolk) will benefit from the introduction of the Skim Pembangunan Kesejahteram Rakyat (SPKR – Citizen Peace/Harmony/Wealth Development Scheme) and a special programme to diversify/enhance their income sources. The Indian NDP similarly fails

to distinguish between fisher and non-fisher households when asserting that the primary sector is important for improving nutritional standards among the rural masses, with caste a crucial factor in determining the likely exposure of a household to poverty. Explicit recognition of the poverty of fisher families is, however, to be found in the Sri Lankan PRSP. The document observes that coastal fishing communities are among the poorest of groups in the rural sector. In addition, fishers are identified (along with other rural groups) as a grouping that moves into/out of poverty according to season/climate/exogenous factors. The PRSPs of Cambodia and Viet Nam are more prescriptive in the sense that they draw attention to the limited access fishing households have to credit and other resources, noting either the need to expand subsidized fishing activities to redress this obstacle (in the case of Viet Nam) or how important fish is as a contributor to national animal protein intake, particularly among poorer households (in the case of Cambodia).

The analyses contained in the Bangladeshi PRSP and the Philippines MTPDP 2004-10, although essentially commenting on the same issues, are rather more profound. Although the Philippines Plan also acknowledges that poverty is concentrated in rural areas, this is tied to a commitment to increase employment prospects (743540 jobs in the fisheries sector alone), grant artisanal fishers exclusive access to waters up to 15 km from the shore, and expand production so as to reduce domestic fish prices. Fishers are one group also slated to benefit from the introduction of emergency and livelihood assistance programmes and expanded health care provision. Livelihood vulnerability is also a key feature of the 370-page Bangladeshi PRSP and was identified in the PRSP consultation process through the explicit questioning of fishers about their livelihood strategies. These findings subsequently inform several of the strategic goals identified in the Agricultural Growth through Poverty Reduction and Food Security policy implementation matrices (Best Practice).

Eight policy documents contained fisheries responses. Of these, the Ninth Thai National Economic and Social Development Plan offered only a fleeting reference pledging to demarcate areas for the protection of aquatic fauna and local fishing areas. Six countries placed more emphasis on fisheries responses. India, with multiple responses scattered across its rather lengthy Tenth Five-Year Plan, plans to promote aquaculture to diversify rural incomes in “backward regions”, and to boost research activity in order to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture growth. The Ninth Malaysian Plan details a variety of interventions aimed at stimulating the commercial growth prospects of fisheries, aquaculture, fish processing and ornamental fish rearing. These include the modernization of coastal fisheries, the provision of new infrastructure (including a deep-sea fishing complex at Tanjung Mamis) and vessel upgrades. The rapid expansion of aquaculture is the centrepiece of Viet Nam’s PRSP, with infrastructural investment and an accompanying extension service provision designed to ensure that sustainable growth targets are met. Although the document expects total fisheries support to reach VND 21-7 thousand billion (approximately US$1.3 billion), no individual breakdown of the figures is given.

Sri Lanka has based its fisheries policy on its National Fisheries Development and Coastal Zone Management programmes, delineating strategies to ensure the sustainable development of the sector, combined with specifically targeted interventions to bring poor and socially excluded groups (including fishers) into the economic mainstream. The Bangladeshi PRSP is also concerned with enhancing the well-being of domestic fishers. Its goals are to facilitate greater access to floodplain fisheries, increase productivity in inland aquaculture and capture fisheries, promote rice and fish culture combined, and introduce local stock varieties. Institutional reform is also on the agenda. In contrast, the Philippines’ response is more explicitly export-oriented. The MTPDP 2004-10 outlines a six-point export strategy for marine products, promises to establish an aquaculture and seaweed enterprise programme, and develop landing and post-harvest facilities to expand fisheries-based production systems. Funding for these proposals will be generated through the formation of joint public and private finance mobilization mechanisms, commencing in late 2005.

The most elaborate response strategy is outlined in the Cambodian PRSP. This includes action/ implementation matrices detailing objectives, strategies, monitoring indicators and budgets. Nonetheless, the more recent 2004 Progress Report suggests there is still a need to develop a fisheries development master plan. Combined rice and fish farming, aquaculture, and community-based fisheries management are identified as key components in the national strategy for equitable agricultural development. Particularly noteworthy interventions include a programme to promote improved resource access for poor families and communities, a study examining the commercial importance of freshwater fisheries, and gender-specific extension programmes to reflect the dominant role of women in traditional farming, fishing, and related commercial activities (Best Practice).

Six documents comment on the policy process, with the Ninth Malaysian Plan simply noting the need to increase fishers’ involvement in agro-processing and marketing programmes. Three documents were more forthcoming. The Philippines’ MTPDP 2004–10, developed with fisheries stakeholder participation, commits the government to mobilize, organize and build fishers’ capacity through infrastructure provision and enterprise support. The Cambodian PRSP also confirms that fishers’ representatives participated in the document-forging process, and commits the government to move towards co-management of national fisheries resources. Community participation is also placed firmly on the agenda in Thailand with the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan outlining a series of measures intended to improve local input into fisheries decision-making processes. The most elaborate accounts, however, are provided by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In Bangladesh, the consultative process preceding the PRSP allowed fishers’ representatives to discuss the nature and causes of poverty from their particular perspectives and help devise poverty reduction targets and strategies (Best Practice). Sri Lanka dedicates a whole section of its PRSP to detailing a variety of community-based coastal preservation and marine resource management projects to be implemented over a period of five years.

C. Sectoral importance and the mainstreaming of fisheries into national policy documents

Figure 1 suggests that fisheries appear to be significant as a motor of growth within six of the thirteen developing APFIC states (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam), with a further three states (China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka) falling just outside the global reference points established by Thorpe (2005). In Figure 2, Bangladesh and the Philippines, both of which score highly on the growth criteria, exhibit pronounced levels of rural poverty and fisheries-related employment, whereas China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam have levels of fisheries-related employment that are above the global average (Thorpe, 2005). The question is: Does sectoral significance in growth and/or equity terms aid in mainstreaming fisheries into PRSPs and NDPs? And, conversely, is the sector relatively neglected in those countries with a less significant fisheries sector?

Four out of the ten countries for which NDPs or PRSPs are available provided one or more examples of best practice. This was especially evident in the Bangladeshi PRSP of November 2005 (three instances of best practice). The 2002 Cambodian PRSP (and the October 2004 Progress Report) and the 2004–10 Philippines Medium-Term Development Plan both provided examples of best practice under two criteria, while Sri Lanka offered an instance of best practice on the process criteria (Table 2).

Combining the analyses of Figure 1 and Figure 2 with Table 2 indicates a strong correlation between the significance of the sector in Trade-Consumption and Poverty-Employment terms and the prominence it is given in national policy documents. The sector has been most effectively mainstreamed into the PRSPs or NDPs of Bangladesh, Cambodia and the Philippines, countries appearing in, or bordering, the northeast quadrants of the scatterplots. In contrast, the reduced

significance of fisheries in both Nepal and Pakistan helps to explain why the sector goes unmentioned in their respective PRSPs. Elsewhere, the large artisanal fishing sector in Sri Lanka and the poverty therein is reflected in a pronounced emphasis within the 2002 PRSP on community participation in maritime resource management (process). The increasing importance of Viet Nam’s seafood exports is recognized in the 2006 PRSP (issue). And India’s Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-07) acknowledges the disadvantaged position of key segments of the rural poor and announces that landless groupings (among others) will be prioritized when assigning pond fishing rights (response).

11Although the Sri Lankan 2002 PRSP was “subsequently discarded” for political reasons (World Bank, 2006: 1), It was decided to retain the 2002 PRSP in our sample due to the current absence of any alternative NDP.
At the time of writing, the Chinese government had not yet produced its 11th Five-Year Plan 2006-10, the Indonesian Medium-Term Development Strategy 2004-09 was only available in Indonesian (a language with which the authors were not familiar), while Myanmar suffers from “the absence of a credible national development plan” (Igboemeka, 2005: 2).
It should be stressed that the purpose of this research is to measure fisheries incorporation into PRSPs and NDPs. It is beyond the remit of this paper to ascertain whether the identified links, responses and processes subsequently impact in the manner intended on policy formulation or implementation - this is a topic for further research. 

Previous PageTop of PageNext Page