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Regional themes > Poverty reduction frameworks and critiques Last update: 2020-11-27  

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The MDGs and pro-poor policies: related by not synonymous

Jan Vandemoortele


Posted with acknowledegments to the UNDP's International Poverty Centre.
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The working paper asks whether the millennium development goals (MDGs) have created opportunities for enlarging pro-poor policy choices at the country level. It concludes that in most countries the policy framework is not yet aligned with the fundamental objective of reducing human poverty. Poverty reduction continues to be seen as an automatic by-product of economic growth and macroeconomic stability. Governments and their partners find it difficult to translate the concept of ‘pro-poor growth’ into practice. Equity continues to be the big absentee in most anti-poverty strategies.

Although the objective of reducing human poverty features prominently on the international agenda, its actual pursuit remains conventional, unimaginative and often ineffective. Poverty reduction strategies also look strikingly similar, even for countries that face very different challenges. It is tragic that countries with high HIV prevalence rates have a macroeconomic framework that is not dissimilar from that for countries without HIV/Aids.

If the MDG targets are to be achieved, then poverty reduction strategies will have to make a quantum leap in public investment, in domestic resources mobilisation, in external assistance and debt relief as well as in meaningful trade concessions. The era of targeted, small-scale anti-poverty interventions is over. If small is beautiful, big is now indispensable.

The paper disputes the view that MDG targets are ‘easily set but never met’. For a target-driven approach to be successful, seven “do’s” are suggested.

Too often, the partnership between rich and poor countries puts the emphasis on aspects related to ‘money changing hands’ at the expense of the dimension of ‘ideas changing minds’. Yet, real change is ultimately an act of freedom, not an act of compliance with rules and conditionalities associated with ‘money changing hands’. A Peer & Partner Review is proposed for making the periodic consultation between a developing country and its external partners less asymmetric and more substantively focused on pro-poor policy choices.

“There are times when the enunciation of even the most elementary common sense has an aspect of eccentricity, irrationality, even mild insanity.”
J. K. Galbraith

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