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Macro-economic policy formulation is the outcome of the interplay between the interests of domestic national stakeholders and international stakeholders, the influence of each depending on particular historic (economic, social, and political) circumstances. In Europe, for example, the growing tendency towards economic integration has been predicated by the progressive transferral of decision-making powers to the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the European Commission, a process that has arguably diminished the scope for domestic stakeholders to influence national policy formulation. For much of the developing world, the debt crisis of the 1980s also heralded growing external involvement in domestic policy formulation, as multilateral agencies demanded the recipient governments remove perceived local obstacles to growth so as to enable the country to grow out of debt. The introduction of Structural Adjustment loans by the World Bank (1979) and the creation of the Structural Adjustment (1986) and Extended Structural Adjustment Facility (1987) by the IMF in response to the crisis, represented a move away from short-term (IMF), project-based lending (World Bank) towards medium-term programme based lending. It also presaged the growing homogenization of external response to perceived domestic policy failings. Now, multilateral borrowing was invariably tied to the introduction of neo-liberal policy measures to restore macroeconomic stability in the short-term, with supply-side reforms (trade and financial liberalization, price and labour market deregulation, and privatization) programmed to follow. By the end of the 1980s, the granting of structural adjustment loans were substantive activities of both the Bank and the Fund[5].

There was recognition too within multilateral circles at the time of the importance of national "ownership" of such programmes, a number of authors noting the serious difficulties that could/did arise if the implemented strategy was perceived to be too donor-driven (McCleary, 1991; Kahler, 1992; Johnson and Wasty, 1993, Husain, 1994:19; Killick, 1995:169). Nevertheless, the principal focus of such externally-supported neo-liberal strategies remained the restoration of growth, buttressed by the belief of a unitary growth elasticity for the bottom quintile of the income distribution (Dollar and Kraay, 2001). While strategies implemented in the early 1990s had introduced social safety nets to mitigate possible short-term effects of adjustment on the poor, there was little acknowledgement that neo-liberal programmes may have enduring negative impacts on the access of the poor to both assets and markets (Evans, 2000).

Unfortunately, and perhaps due to these failings, the evolving neo-liberal strategy failed to make a "real dent" (Birdsall and Londoño, 1997:36) in the magnitude of poverty in either Latin America or Sub-Saharan Africa. The seemingly intractable nature of poverty now prompted governments attending the 1995 World Summit for Social Development to commit themselves to developing more explicitly pro-poor policy frameworks within the context of NDPs (DFID/EC/UNDP, 2002:14). It coincided too with the World Bank also beginning to shift its position somewhat. The publication of a new mission statement (Embracing the Future) espoused the need for greater local involvement in the design, preparation and supervision of Bank activities (Oxfam, 1995:205) and led the institution to more explicitly consider how to both eliminate discrimination against, and/or open up new opportunities for, the poor in inegalitarian societies.

These deliberations were aided by a major Bank research project - Voices of the Poor - which collated information from participatory poverty assessments undertaken by the Bank in fifty countries during the 1990s, supplemented by fieldwork in twenty-three countries in early 1999[6]. The project was influential on two counts. First, it became an integral input into the 2000/1 World Development Report Attacking Poverty, a Report that advocated the need to promote opportunity, facilitate empowerment and enhance security if poverty was to be tackled effectively. Second, it undoubtedly played a part in persuading the World Bank and the IMF at their September 1999 Annual Meetings to accept that country-owned poverty reduction strategies should form the basis for all future Bank and IMF concessional lending, said strategies also guiding the use of resources freed-up under the enhanced HIPC Initiative[7] (World Bank, 2000a:3). To this end, beneficiaries of multilateral concessional largesse (either through the IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) or via the Bank"s International Development Association (IDA)) are expected to operationalize the principles espoused in the Bank's Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF)[8] into practical action plans in the shape of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).

Box 1
Core principles underpinning the formulation of PRSPs

Country-driven Involving broad-Based Participation by Civil Society and the Private Sector in all Operational Steps.

Results-oriented Focussing on Outcomes that would Benefit the Poor

Comprehensive In terms of recognising the Multidimensional Nature of Poverty.

Partnership-oriented Involving the Co-ordinated Participation of Development Partners (Bilateral, Multilateral)



While these papers, like the CDF, have certain inviolable core principles (see Box 1), their presentational format is becoming increasingly standardized thanks to the provision of a "suggestive" Sourcebook, and involves;

(i) A description of the participatory process used to draw up the PRSP (format, frequency and location of consultations and the participants involved, a summary of the main issues raised, an account of how the consultations impacted upon the final document and the role of civil society in both implementing and monitoring the strategy).

(ii) Comprehensive poverty diagnostics (describing the nature, extent and location of poverty).

(iii) Clearly presented and costed macroeconomic, structural and social policy priorities (the strategy necessary for delivering poverty-reducing outcomes and their costing)

(iv) Appropriate targets, indicators, and monitoring systems (including medium- and long-term poverty reduction goals and the stipulated annual targets seen as necessary to reach these eventual goals - so as to enable an effective ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the PRSP strategy)

Despite this growing standardization of both the process and presentational style, the contents of national PRSPs can vary markedly as;

"Developing countries need to prepare their own mix of policies to reduce poverty, reflecting national priorities and local realities. Choices will depend on the economic, socio-political, structural, and cultural context of individual countries - indeed individual communities. ... priorities will have to be set in individual cases based on resources and what is institutionally feasible (World Bank, 2000:7, the italics are ours)."

The relative novelty of the PRSP process, allied to the need for urgency to prevent delays for countries intent on seeking debt relief under the HIPC Initiative, saw provision made for the formulation of Interim PRSPs. Interim PRSPs detail the country's current poverty reduction strategy and set out a road-map and accompanying timeline (generally twelve months - if longer, annual progress reports on the preparation process are required by the multilateral institutions) for the completion of a full PRSP. To date (end December 2003), 37 countries have completed a full PRSP with a further 13 having submitted an Interim PRSP. Although country-driven, multilateral endorsement is necessary[9] before either; (i) HIPC countries can reach a decision/completion point, (ii) access to the IMF's PRGF is approved and/or, (iii) IDA concessional funds from the World Bank are forthcoming. While transparency of the process is assured through the web publication of the resulting Interim and/or Full PRSPs and the accompanying JSAs on the World Bank and IMF websites, concern has been expressed in some quarters about the way the process is evolving (Box 2).

Box 2
The PRSP process: concerns about its evolution


* Is it realistic to talk of full "stakeholder participation" when certain actors (notably the IMF and World Bank) presently hold potentially powerful positions within the policy-making process?

* Is the IMF (in particular) prepared to concede to a more open discussion of fiscal policy (especially in terms of elaborating a Medium Term Expenditure Framework) expenditure and financing?


*Will the donor community adopt a "hands off" approach to policy formulation, rather than succumb to the temptation to be heavily prescriptive in such arenas?

(a) Does the existence of donor timelines and bureaucratic processes inhibit the development of a nationally owned PRSP?

(b) Can multilateral conditionalities be devised in a way that avoids undermining local ownership and accountability, whilst guaranteeing flexibility in the management of the policy process?

Adapted from Norton and Foster (2001:19)

That said, it is undeniable that the formulation of PRSPs has served to strengthen donor coordination around the policy concerns identified, through participatory processes (however flawed), by the host government. Country Assistance Strategies (CAS), which describe the World Bank's strategic objectives and lending policy to a country, are now expected to both temporally follow, and be based on, nationally produced PRSPs. Similarly EU development policy and aid, as advanced in the respective Country Strategy Papers, is expected to be complementary to, and based upon, the underlying PRSP (c.f. the summaries of the Bolivian and Nicaraguan Country Strategy Papers at Other bilateral donors are also increasingly implementing aid strategies consonant with nationally-devised PRSPs; Dfid (UK) is "committed to building development partnerships based on a shared agenda set by a credible poverty reduction strategy (Dfid, 2002:15)", the German Federal Republic "in pursuing its commitment to the United Nation's goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015, supports the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies as a promising short to medium-term means of jointly achieving this objective" (GTZ, 2002); while USAID is directing funds under its Developing Agriculture and Reducing Poverty programme to those African countries whose governments are most committed to increasing growth and reducing poverty (USAID, 2003:3). PRSPs offer a favourable channel then for coordinating and channelling donor support - and for this reason have come to overshadow or supplant NDPs in many developing countries.

Nevertheless, there are a group of low- and middle-income developing countries - those not burdened with excessively onerous levels of debt so as to qualify for relief under the HIPC Initiative, nor need (or perhaps are able) to borrow from the multilateral institutions at concessional rates[10] - who are not obliged to produce PRSPs (what we shall term the PRSP-exempt countries). These include countries such as Mexico and Peru in Latin America, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, Gabon and Egypt in Africa, and Thailand and the Philippines in Asia. Such countries are less influenced by international stakeholders when drawing up development strategies and, as a consequence, the ensuing NDPs and programmes are more a reflection of domestic stakeholder pressures and influence, exercised through conventional (local) channels of policy discourse. Equally, poverty reduction may not necessarily be the over-riding policy objective - the Uruguayan agenda announced in President Batlle's inaugural speech in March 2000, for example, highlighted four priority areas (implementation of structural reforms to increase competitiveness, modernization and reform of the state, human resource development and greater integration with Mercosur) rather than any explicit commitment to tackle inequality and poverty ( As - or perhaps because - such national development strategies are also more heterogeneous in both content and style, there is a marked absence of direct comparative work to date which synthesizes the extent of stakeholder participation in, and the substance of, such plans in the way FAO and others have done with regard to PRSP-implementing countries (FAO, 2002; Foster and Macintosh-Walker, 2001; Bertelsen and Jensen, 2002; Robb, 2000).

In such "PRSP-exempt" countries the opportunity for the fisheries sector's insertion into national development planning is conditioned by its ability to capture/influence key channels of traditional discourse within the policy formulation process. These opportunities are likely to be more muted when the interests of the sector are submerged within a much larger ministry of agriculture and/or environment, fisheries simply being one of a competing number of intra-ministerial voices when it comes to mainstreaming natural resource strategies into national development planning. In the case of Brazil, for example, an earlier FAO Fisheries Circular by Sugunan (1997:75) noted how the Instituto Brasiliero do Medio Ambiente (IBAMA), the national agency entrusted with responsibility for both natural resource management (including fisheries) and environment conservation in 1989, was singularly ill-equipped to represent the sector's interests, counting on just four professionals dealing with aquaculture at HQ - and just one person responsible for aquaculture and fisheries in each state capital[11]. Equally, whilst the fisheries sector has grown to become the second largest contributor to exports (after coffee) in Nicaragua, the downgrading of the Administración Nacional de Pesca y Acuicultura (Adpesca, formerly Inpesca-Medepesca) into one of four dependencies within the Ministerio de Fomento, Industria y Comercio (Mific) and has a concomitant reduction in sectoral support - inadequate staffing levels and only very limited government extension services available (AdPESCA, 2003). Opportunities to influence the policy-making process are not obdurate, however, and can wax and wane as circumstances change. New institutional arrangements engendered by (or contributing to) the formulation of a new development strategy can provide opportunities for a more pronounced role for the sector in the policy formulation process for example. In Mexico, the new economic strategy based on resource extraction and the development of related industries introduced by the López Portillo regime (1976-82) saw the Fisheries Sub-Secretariat successively upgraded to a full department (1976) and thence a Ministry (1982), the formulation of a First National Plan for Fishing Development (1977-82), and a doubling of the sector's proposed investment budget to US$ 1.3 billion (Ibarra et al., 2000:520/1). Equally, in Argentina, the adoption of a neo-liberal development programme by the Menem government in the 1990s which strongly supported export growth was a major contributor to the growth of the national fleet and led to a commensurate increase in the sector's influence on the development discourse (Thorpe, Ibarra and Reid, 2000). Opportunities exist - it is simply a case of identifying the most optimal entry points for raising the profile of the sector in the strategic planning process.

In contrast, the participative process involved in preparing a PRSP cuts across traditional discourse channels and, by offering civil society organizations a greater voice in informing the decision-making process, means that "PRSP countries" offer potentially greater opportunities for the insertion of desired goals and strategies into the final diagnostic policy document. Attempts have already been made to examine how gender (Zuckerman, 2002; ECOSOC, 2003), sustainability (Difd, 2000; Bojö and Reddy, 2002; Dfid/EC/UNDP/World Bank, 2002) HIV/Aids (World Bank, 2001), and forestry (Oksanen and Mersmann. 2002) can be better integrated into national poverty reduction strategies, with Foster (2000:15/6) resolute in insisting that sectoral programmes should be "nested" within the overall development strategy[12]. Unfortunately, to date, the only fisheries-related research on the theme - originating from the FAO/Dfid/SFLP-funded regional poverty alleviation programme for small-scale fisheries in West Africa - suggests an opportunity forgone rather than an opportunity seized. Although opportunities were available - the sector generally being represented at most consultative levels (task force, thematic working group, community level) in the 11 sampled countries - participation did not translate effectively into policy and the final report concluded;

"The main outcome of this clearly showed that small-scale fisheries are rarely taken into account in PRSPs formulation (FAO/Dfid/SFLP, 2002:ii)."

Such a finding can suggest one of two things. First, the sector is of peripheral importance in the macro-economic decision-making field - and so may be discounted when formulating national poverty reduction strategies. Second, the sector is important, but current interaction with - and/or articulation of the desired sectoral objectives within - the participative process is ineffectual. The next section of this report therefore makes a case as to why the fisheries sector should not perhaps be peripheralized in development thinking and planning - and then derives a framework for identifying the relative importance of the fisheries sector in different countries from a growth and/or an equity perspective.

[5] Structural adjustment lending accounted for 25 percent of all Bank lending (over 50 percent of lending to heavily indebted countries) by the end of the decade, with loans under the Extended Structural Adjustment Facility having become the second most important activity of the IMF by the mid-1990s (Corbo and Fischer, 1992:7; Thorpe, 2002a:15).
[6] The research enabled the poor to articulate their most pressing problems and priorities, discuss changes in gender and social relations, and detail how they interacted with public, market and civil society institutions. The consultation gathered together the voices of 60,000 men and women across 60 countries, culminating with a final Global Synthesis Workshop held in Washington D.C in September 1999
[7] The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative was proposed by the World Bank and IMF and agreed by governments around the world in late 1996. It represented the first comprehensive debt-reduction strategy targeted at the world's poorest, most heavily indebted countries, and placed debt relief within an overall framework of poverty reduction. A major review identifying the Initiative's strengths and failings in 1999 produced an enhanced Initiative, described by its proponents as being 'deeper, broader and faster'
[8] The CDF emphasises the interdependent nature of development - social, structural, human, governance, environmental, economic, and financial - and advances the need for policy-making processes that seek to balance these different elements.
[9] Multilateral endorsement takes the form of a Joint Staff Assessment (JSA) by the IMF/Bank to their respective Boards indicating that the completed PRSP provides a sound basis for debt relief and/or fund release.
[10] The World Bank concessional window - the IDA - for example is only available to countries that are unable (for reasons of creditworthiness) to borrow from the IBRD and have a 2002 per capita income of under US$ 875. Presently 81 countries are eligible to borrow from the IDA.
[11] In effect, fisheries management (and exploitation) was partially privatised, fisheries laws requiring the owners and concessionaries of "impounding structures" (generally dams) to take appropriate measures so as to preserve and protect aquatic fauna.
[12] He suggests that; (i) government develops an overall strategy of vision for sustainable development, (ii) cross-cutting institutional reforms are put in place to provide the necessary supporting framework, (iii) the budgetary process assigns finances between the competing priorities, and (iv) sector wide approaches (SWAPS) define a sectoral policy consistent with government priorities and assigned resources.

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