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Third Quarter, 2004
Revamp or retire? World Bank and IMF at 60
God's "pro-poor" yardstick

Summary:
Jesus taught that how we treat the poorest and most marginalised is the yardstick by which we will be judged. It's a model that the World Bank and IMF would do well to heed.

JESUS TAUGHT THAT HOW WE TREAT THE poorest and most marginalised is the yardstick by which we will be judged (Matthew 25: 31– 46). He revealed that God is far less concerned about fiscal rectitude and pleasing financial markets than about valuing every last human being.
Two studies have confirmed what many of us have been saying for years: that IMF and World Bank programmes still do not take enough account of their effects on the poor. Advancing economic liberalisation still takes precedence.
William Easterly's study of IMF and World Bank lending from 1980 to 1998 found that economic expansions in countries with structural adjustment programmes tend to benefit the poor less than in countries without such programmes. It is significant that the Bank's own research found this.
The other study, by Gopal Garuda at Harvard, found that IMF programmes can adversely affect income distribution. Specifically, in countries with major balance-of-payments problems, they have tended to make the poor worse off.
Part of the problem is that the economic models used by the Bank and Fund often are not disaggregated finely enough by income group, gender, age and region. So an IMF programme that delivers macro-economic stability may also have devastating effects on the poor, and on women and children in particular.
The World Bank and IMF must ensure that their economic models, policies and programmes are truly pro-poor. This must be a deliberate policy – it will not just happen. And what does "pro-poor" mean?
The yardstick given by Jesus is a call for us to accept the dignity, rights and leadership of the poor. To put the poor first – not last in a "trickle down" line. It is a model that the Bank and Fund would do well to heed.

-- Tim Costello is CEO of World Vision Australia

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