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The Washington Consensus is a set of 10 economic policy prescriptions considered
to constitute the "standard" reform package promoted for crisis-wracked
developing countries by Washington, D.C.–based institutions such as the
International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the US Treasury Department. It was
coined in 1989 by English economist John Williamson. The prescriptions
encompassed policies in such areas as macroeconomic stabilization, economic
opening with respect to both trade and investment, and the expansion of market
forces within the domestic economy. Subsequent to Williamson's use of the
terminology, and despite his emphatic opposition, the phrase Washington
Consensus has come to be used fairly widely in a second, broader sense, to
refer to a more general orientation towards a strongly market-based
approach. In emphasizing the magnitude of the difference between the two
alternative definitions, Williamson himself has argued that his ten
original, narrowly defined prescriptions have largely acquired the status of
"motherhood and apple pie", whereas the subsequent broader definition,
representing a form of neoliberal manifesto, "never enjoyed a consensus
[in Washington] or anywhere much else" and can reasonably be said to be dead.
Discussion of the Washington Consensus has long been contentious. Partly this
reflects a lack of agreement over what is meant by the term, in face of the
contrast between the broader and narrower definitions But there are also
substantive differences involved over the merits and consequences of the
various policy prescriptions involved. Some critics take issue, for example,
with the original Consensus's emphasis on the opening of developing countries
to global markets, and/or with what they see as an excessive focus on
strengthening the influence of domestic market forces, arguably at the expense
of key functions of the state. For other commentators the issue is more what is
missing, including such areas as institution-building and targeted
efforts to improve opportunities for the weakest in society. Despite these areas
of controversy, a number of developmental institutions and
economists would by now accept the more general proposition that strategies best
work if they are specifically designed to the certain circumstances of the
individual countries. History
= Original sense: Williamson's Ten Points =
The concept and name of the Washington Consensus were first presented in 1989
by John Williamson, an economist from the Institute for International
Economics, an international economic think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Williamson used the term to summarize commonly shared themes among policy
advice by Washington-based institutions at the time, such as the International
Monetary Fund, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury Department, which were believed
to be necessary for the recovery of countries in Latin America from the
economic and financial crises of the 1980s.
The consensus as originally stated by Williamson included ten broad sets of
relatively specific policy recommendations:
Fiscal policy discipline, with avoidance of large fiscal deficits relative to
GDP; Redirection of public spending from
subsidies toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services
like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment;
Tax reform, broadening the tax base and adopting moderate marginal tax rates;
Interest rates that are market determined and positive in real terms;
Competitive exchange rates; Trade liberalization: liberalization of
imports, with particular emphasis on elimination of quantitative
restrictions; any trade protection to be provided by low and relatively uniform
tariffs; Liberalization of inward foreign direct
investment; Privatization of state enterprises;
Deregulation: abolition of regulations that impede market entry or restrict
competition, except for those justified on safety, environmental and consumer
protection grounds, and prudential oversight of financial institutions;
Legal security for property rights. = Origins of policy agenda =
Although Williamson's label of the Washington Consensus draws attention to
the role of the Washington-based agencies in promoting the above agenda,
a number of authors have stressed that Latin American policy-makers arrived at
their own packages of policy reforms primarily based on their own analysis of
their countries' situations. Thus, according to Joseph Stanislaw and Daniel
Yergin, authors of The Commanding Heights, the policy prescriptions
described in the Washington Consensus were "developed in Latin America, by
Latin Americans, in response to what was happening both within and outside the
region." Joseph Stiglitz has written that "the Washington Consensus policies
were designed to respond to the very real problems in Latin America and made
considerable sense". In view of the implication conveyed by the term
Washington Consensus that the policies were largely external in origin,
Stanislaw and Yergin report that the term's creator, John Williamson, has
"regretted the term ever since", stating "it is difficult to think of a less
diplomatic label." A 2010 paper by Nancy Birdsall, Augusto
de la Torre, and Felipe Valencia Caicedo likewise suggests that the policies in
the original consensus were largely a creation of Latin American politicians
and technocrats, with Williamson's role having been to gather the ten points in
one place for the first time, rather than to "create" the package of
policies. In Williamson's own words from 2002:
= Broad sense = Williamson recognizes that the term has
commonly been used with a different meaning from his original prescription;
he opposes the alternative use of the term, which became common after his
initial formulation, to cover a broader market fundamentalism or "neoliberal"
agenda. I of course never intended my term to
imply policies like capital account liberalization, monetarism, supply-side
economics, or a minimal state, which I think of as the quintessentially
neoliberal ideas. If that is how the term is interpreted, then we can all
enjoy its wake, although let us at least have the decency to recognize that these
ideas have rarely dominated thought in Washington and certainly never commanded
a consensus there or anywhere much else...
More specifically, Williamson argues that the first three of his ten
prescriptions are uncontroversial in the economic community, while recognizing
that the others have evoked some controversy. He argues that one of the
least controversial prescriptions, the redirection of spending to
infrastructure, health care, and education, has often been neglected. He
also argues that, while the prescriptions were focused on reducing
certain functions of government, they would also strengthen government's
ability to undertake other actions such as supporting education and health.
Williamson says that he does not endorse market fundamentalism, and believes that
the Consensus prescriptions, if implemented correctly, would benefit the
poor. In a book edited with Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski in 2003, Williamson laid out
an expanded reform agenda, emphasizing crisis-proofing of economies,
"second-generation" reforms, and policies addressing inequality and
social issues. As noted, in spite of Williamson's
reservations, the term Washington Consensus has been used more broadly to
describe the general shift towards free market policies that followed the
displacement of Keynesianism in the 1970s. In this broad sense the
Washington Consensus is sometimes considered to have begun at about 1980.
Many commentators see the consensus, especially if interpreted in the broader
sense of the term, as having been at its strongest during the 1990s. Some have
argued that the consensus in this sense ended at the turn of the century, or at
least that it became less influential after about the year 2000. More
commonly, commentators have suggested that the Consensus in its broader sense
survived until the time of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. Following the
strong intervention undertaken by governments in response to market
failures, a number of journalists, politicians and senior officials from
global institutions such as the World Bank began saying that the Washington
Consensus was dead. These included former British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown, who following the 2009 G-20 London summit, declared "the old
Washington Consensus is over". Williamson was asked by The Washington
Post in April 2009 whether he agreed with Gordon Brown that the Washington
Consensus was dead. He responded: It depends on what one means by the
Washington Consensus. If one means the ten points that I tried to outline, then
clearly it's not right. If one uses the interpretation that a number of
people—including Joe Stiglitz, most prominently—have foisted on it, that it
is a neoliberal tract, then I think it is right.
After the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit announced that it had achieved agreement
on a Seoul Development Consensus, the Financial Times editorialized that "Its
pragmatic and pluralistic view of development is appealing enough. But the
document will do little more than drive another nail into the coffin of a
long-deceased Washington consensus." Context
Many countries have endeavored to implement varying components of the
reform packages, with implementation sometimes imposed as a condition for
receiving loans from the IMF and World Bank. The results of these reforms are
much debated. Some critics focus on claims that the reforms led to
destabilization. Some critics have also blamed the Washington Consensus for
particular economic crises such as the Argentine economic crisis, and for
exacerbating Latin America's economic inequalities. Criticism of the
Washington Consensus has often been dismissed as socialism and/or
anti-globalism. While these philosophies do criticize these policies, general
criticism of the economics of the consensus is now more widely
established, such as that outlined by US scholar Dani Rodrik, Professor of
International Political Economy at Harvard University, in his paper Goodbye
Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?.
The institutions that formed the consensus started softening their
insistence on these policies in the 2000s largely due to political pressures
surrounding globalization, but any reference of these ideas as a consensus
essentially ended in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, as market
fundamentalism lost favour. Though, it should be noted, that most of the core
specific policies are still generally regarded favourably, but the policies
have come to be viewed as not preventing nor alleviating acute economic crises.
This is perhaps most notable in the work of the IMF with South Korea to create a
new sort of intervention program to the one that South Korea was forced to
accept during the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. That intervention,
which was heavily grounded in the Washington Consensus, was hailed at the
time for stopping the "Asian Contagion" but eventually the program came to be
seen more skeptically. Williamson himself has summarized the
overall results on growth, employment and poverty reduction in many countries
as "disappointing, to say the least". He attributes this limited impact to three
factors: the Consensus per se placed no special emphasis on mechanisms for
avoiding economic crises, which have proved very damaging; the reforms—both
those listed in his article and, a fortiori, those actually
implemented—were incomplete; and the reforms cited were insufficiently
ambitious with respect to targeting improvements in income distribution, and
need to be complemented by stronger efforts in this direction. Rather than
an argument for abandoning the original ten prescriptions, though, Williamson
concludes that they are "motherhood and apple pie" and "not worth debating".
Both Williamson and other analysts have pointed to longer term improvements in
economic performance in a number of countries that have adopted the relevant
policy changes consistently, such as Chile.
As Williamson himself has pointed out, the term has come to be used in a
broader sense to its original intention, as a synonym for market fundamentalism
or neo-liberalism. In this broader sense, Williamson states, it has been
criticized by people such as George Soros and Nobel Laureate Joseph E.
Stiglitz. The Washington Consensus is also criticized by others such as some
Latin American politicians and heterodox economists such as Erik Reinert. The
term has become associated with neoliberal policies in general and drawn
into the broader debate over the expanding role of the free market,
constraints upon the state, and the influence of the United States, and
globalization more broadly, on countries' national sovereignty.
"Stabilize, privatize, and liberalize" became the mantra of a generation of
technocrats who cut their teeth in the developing world and of the political
leaders they counseled. While opinion varies among economists,
Rodrik pointed out what he claimed was a factual paradox: while China and India
increased their economies' reliance on free market forces to a limited extent,
their general economic policies remained the exact opposite to the Washington
Consensus' main recommendations. Both had high levels of protectionism, no
privatization, extensive industrial policies planning, and lax fiscal and
financial policies through the 1990s. Had they been dismal failures they would
have presented strong evidence in support of the recommended Washington
Consensus policies. However they turned out to be successes. According to
Rodrik: "While the lessons drawn by proponents and skeptics differ, it is
fair to say that nobody really believes in the Washington Consensus anymore. The
question now is not whether the Washington Consensus is dead or alive;
it is what will replace it". Rodrik's account of Chinese or Indian
policies during the period is not universally accepted. Among other things
those policies involved major turns in the direction of greater reliance upon
market forces, both domestically and internationally.
In a book edited with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in 2003, John Williamson laid
out an expanded reform agenda, emphasizing crisis-proofing of
economies, "second-generation" reforms, and policies addressing inequality and
social issues. Macroeconomic adjustment
The widespread adoption by governments of the Washington Consensus was to a
large degree a reaction to the macroeconomic crisis that hit much of
Latin America, and some other developing regions, during the 1980s. The crisis
had multiple origins: the drastic rise in the price of imported oil following
the emergence of OPEC, mounting levels of external debt, the rise in US
interest rates, and—consequent to the foregoing problems—loss of access to
additional foreign credit. The import-substitution policies that had
been pursued by many developing country governments in Latin America and
elsewhere for several decades had left their economies ill-equipped to expand
exports at all quickly to pay for the additional cost of imported oil. Unable
either to expand external borrowing further or to ramp up export earnings
easily, many Latin American countries faced no obvious sustainable
alternatives to reducing overall domestic demand via greater fiscal
discipline, while in parallel adopting policies to reduce protectionism and
increase their economies' export orientation.
Trade liberalization The Washington Consensus, as framed by
Williamson, envisaged a largely unilateral process of trade reform, by
which countries would lower their non-tariff and tariff barriers to
imports. Many countries, including the majority of those in Latin America, have
indeed undertaken significant unilateral trade liberalization over subsequent
years, opening their economies to greater import competition while
simultaneously increasing the share of exports in their GDP.
A separate agenda—only tangentially related to the Washington Consensus as
framed by Williamson—concerns various programs for multilateral trade
liberalization, whether at the global or regional level, including the North
American Free Trade Agreement and DR-CAFTA agreements.
Criticism Most criticism has been focused on trade
liberalization and the elimination of subsidies, and criticism has been
particularly strident in the agriculture sector. In nations with substantial
natural resources, though, criticism has tended to focus on privatization of
industries exploiting these resources. As of 2010, several Latin American
countries were led by socialist or other left wing governments, some of
which—including Argentina and Venezuela—have campaigned for policies
contrary to the Washington Consensus policies. Other Latin American countries
with governments of the left, including Brazil, Chile and Peru, in practice
adopted the bulk of the policies included in Williamson's list, even
though they criticized the market fundamentalism that these are often
associated with. Also critical of the policies as actually promoted by the IMF
have been some US economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz and Dani Rodrik, who
have challenged what are sometimes described as the 'fundamentalist'
policies of the IMF and the US Treasury for what Stiglitz calls a 'one size fits
all' treatment of individual economies. According to Stiglitz the treatment
suggested by the IMF is too simple: one dose, and fast—stabilize, liberalize and
privatize, without prioritizing or watching for side effects.
The reforms did not always work out the way they were intended. While growth
generally improved across much of Latin America, it was in most countries less
than the reformers had originally hoped for. Success stories in Sub-Saharan
Africa during the 1990s were relatively few and far in between, and
market-oriented reforms by themselves offered no formula to deal with the
growing public health emergency in which the continent became embroiled. The
critics, meanwhile, argue that the disappointing outcomes have vindicated
their concerns about the inappropriateness of the standard reform
agenda. Besides the excessive belief in market
fundamentalism and international economic institutions in attributing the
failure of the Washington consensus, Stiglitz provided a further explanation
about why it failed. In his article "The Post Washington Consensus Consensus", he
claims that the Washington consensus policies failed to efficiently handle
the economic structures within developing countries. The cases of East
Asian countries such as Korea and Taiwan are known as a success story in which
their remarkable economic growth was attributed to a larger role of the
government by undertaking industrial policies and increasing domestic savings
within their territory. From the cases, the role for government was proven to be
critical at the beginning stage of the dynamic process of development, at least
until the markets by themselves can produce efficient outcomes.
The policies pursued by the international financial institutions
which came to be called the Washington consensus policies or neoliberalism
entailed a much more circumscribed role for the state than were embraced by most
of the East Asian countries, a set of policies which came to be called the
development state. The critique laid out in the World
Bank's study Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform
shows how far discussion has come from the original ideas of the Washington
Consensus. Gobind Nankani, a former vice-president for Africa at the World
Bank, wrote in the preface: "there is no unique universal set of rules.... [W]e
need to get away from formulae and the search for elusive 'best
practices'....". The World Bank's new emphasis is on the need for humility,
for policy diversity, for selective and modest reforms, and for experimentation.
The World Bank's report Learning from Reform shows some of the developments of
the 1990s. There was a deep and prolonged collapse in output in some
countries making the transition from communism to market economies. More than
a decade into the transition, some of the former communist countries,
especially parts of the former Soviet Union, had still not caught up to their
1990 levels of output. Many Sub-Saharan African's economies failed to take off
during the 1990s, in spite of efforts at policy reform, changes in the political
and external environments, and continued heavy influx of foreign aid. Uganda,
Tanzania, and Mozambique were among countries that showed some success, but
they remained fragile. There were several successive and painful financial
crises in Latin America, East Asia, Russia, and Turkey. The Latin American
recovery in the first half of the 1990s was interrupted by crises later in the
decade. There was less growth in per capita GDP in Latin America than in the
period of rapid post-War expansion and opening in the world economy, 1950-80.
Argentina, described by some as "the poster boy of the Latin American
economic revolution", came crashing down in 2002.
Among other results of the recent global financial crisis has been a
strengthening of belief in the importance of local development models
as more suitable than programmatic approaches. Some elements of this school
of thought were summarized in the idea of a "Beijing Consensus" which suggested
that nations needed to find their own paths to development and reform.
= Anti-globalization movement = Many critics of trade liberalization,
such as Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Susan George, and Naomi Klein, see the
Washington Consensus as a way to open the labor market of underdeveloped
economies to exploitation by companies from more developed economies. The
prescribed reductions in tariffs and other trade barriers allow the free
movement of goods across borders according to market forces, but labor is
not permitted to move freely due to the requirements of a visa or a work permit.
This creates an economic climate where goods are manufactured using cheap labor
in underdeveloped economies and then exported to rich First World economies
for sale at what the critics argue are huge markups, with the balance of the
markup said to accrue to large multinational corporations. The
criticism is that workers in the Third World economy nevertheless remain poor,
as any pay raises they may have received over what they made before trade
liberalization are said to be offset by inflation, whereas workers in the First
World country become unemployed, while the wealthy owners of the multinational
grow even more wealthy. Anti-globalism critics further claim
that First World countries impose what the critics describe as the consensus's
neoliberal policies on economically vulnerable countries through
organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and by
political pressure and bribery. They argue that the Washington Consensus has
not, in fact, led to any great economic boom in Latin America, but rather to
severe economic crises and the accumulation of crippling external debts
that render the target country beholden to the First World.
Many of the policy prescriptions are criticized as mechanisms for ensuring
the development of a small, wealthy, indigenous elite in the Third World who
will rise to political power and also have a vested interest in maintaining
the local status quo of labor exploitation.
Some specific factual premises of the critique as phrased above are not
accepted by defenders, or indeed all critics, of the Washington Consensus. To
take a few examples, inflation in many developing countries is now at its
lowest levels for many decades. Workers in some factories created by foreign
investment are found typically to receive higher wages and better working
conditions than exist in many of their own countries' domestically owned
workplaces. Economic growth in much of Latin America in the last few years has
been at historically high rates, and debt levels, relative to the size of
these economies, are on average significantly lower than they were
several years ago. Despite these macroeconomic advances,
poverty and inequality remain at high levels in Latin America. About one of
every three people—165 million in total—still live on less than $2 a day.
Roughly a third of the population has no access to electricity or basic
sanitation, and an estimated 10 million children suffer from malnutrition. These
problems are not, however, new: Latin America was the most economically
unequal region in the world in 1950, and has continued to be so ever since,
during periods both of state-directed import-substitution and of
market-oriented liberalization. Some socialist political leaders in
Latin America are vocal and well-known critics of the Washington Consensus,
such as the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Cuban ex-President Fidel
Castro, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador.
In Argentina, too, the recent Justicialist Party government of Néstor
Kirchner and his spouse who succeeded him undertook policy measures which
represented a repudiation of at least some Consensus policies. With the
exception of Castro, these leaders have maintained and expanded some successful
policies commonly associated with the Washington Consensus, such as
macroeconomic stability and property rights protection. But many have also
proposed and implemented policies directly opposed to the Washington
Consensus: under Chavez, for example, Venezuela partially nationalized the
state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A, and with the help of the
company's assets developed several social programs to help the country's
poor. These programs have been credited with the dramatic improvement in quality
of life during Chavez's presidency: the poverty rate dropped from 48.6% in 2002
to 29.5% in 2011, while access to education and healthcare was
significantly increased. Others on the Latin American left take a
different approach. Governments led by the Socialist Party of Chile, by Alan
García in Peru, by Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, and by Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva in Brazil, have in practise maintained a high degree of continuity
with the economic policies described under the Washington Consensus. But
governments of this type have simultaneously sought to supplement
these policies by measures directly targeted at improving productivity and
helping the poor, such as education reforms and subsidies to poor families
conditioned on their children staying in school.
= Neo-Keynesian criticisms = Neo-Keynesian and post-Keynesian critics
of the Consensus [citation needed] have argued that the underlying policies were
incorrectly laid down and are too rigid to be able to succeed. For example,
flexible labor laws were supposed to create new jobs, but economic evidence
from Latin America is inconclusive on this point. In addition, some argue that
the package of policies does not take into account economic and cultural
differences between countries. Some critics have argued that this set of
policies should be implemented, if at all, during a period of rapid economic
growth and not—as often is the case—during an economic crisis.
Moisés Naím, chief editor of Foreign Policy, has made the argument that there
was no 'consensus' in the first place. He has argued that there are and have
been major differences between economists over what is the 'correct
economic policy', hence the idea of there being a consensus was also flawed.
= Proponents of the "European model" and the "Asian way" =
Some European and Asian economists suggest that "infrastructure-savvy
economies" such as Norway, Singapore, and China have partially rejected the
underlying Neoclassical "financial orthodoxy" that characterizes the
Washington Consensus, instead initiating a pragmatist development path of their
own based on sustained, large-scale, government-funded investments in
strategic infrastructure projects: "Successful countries such as Singapore,
Indonesia, and South Korea still remember the harsh adjustment mechanisms
imposed abruptly upon them by the IMF and World Bank during the 1997-1998
'Asian Crisis' […] What they have achieved in the past 10 years is all the
more remarkable: they have quietly abandoned the Washington Consensus by
investing massively in infrastructure projects […] this pragmatic approach
proved to be very successful". While China invested roughly 9% of its
GDP on infrastructure in the 1990s and 2000s, most Western and non-Asian
emerging economies invested only 2% to 4% of their GDP in infrastructure
assets. This considerable investment gap allowed the Chinese economy to grow at
near-optimal conditions while many South American, South Asian, and African
economies suffered from various development bottlenecks like poor
transportation networks, aging power grids, and mediocre schools.
Argentina The Argentine economic crisis of
1999–2002 is often held out as an example of the economic devastation said
by some to have been wrought by application of the Washington Consensus.
Argentina's former Deputy Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, in an interview
with the state news agency Télam on August 16, 2005, attacked the Washington
Consensus. There never was a real consensus for such policies, he said,
and today "a good number of governments of the hemisphere are reviewing the
assumptions with which they applied those policies in the 1990s", adding
that governments are looking for a development model to guarantee
productive employment and the generation of real wealth.
Many economists, however, challenge the view that Argentina's failure can be
attributed to close adherence to the Washington Consensus. The country's
adoption of an idiosyncratic fixed exchange rate regime, which became
increasingly uncompetitive, together with its failure to achieve effective
control over its fiscal accounts, both ran counter to central provisions of the
Consensus, and paved the way directly for the ultimate macroeconomic collapse.
The market-oriented policies of the early Menem-Cavallo years, meanwhile,
soon petered out in the face of domestic political constraints.
In October 1998 the IMF invited Argentine President Carlos Menem, to
talk about the successful Argentine experience, at the Annual Meeting of the
Board of Governors. President Menem's Minister of Economy, Domingo Cavallo,
the architect of the Menem administration's economic policies,
specifically including "convertibility", made the claim that Argentina was at
that moment, "considered as the best pupil of the IMF, the World Bank and the
USA government": On the second semester of 1998 Argentina
was considered in Washington the most successful economy among the ones that
had restructured its debt within the Brady's Plan framework. None of the
Washington Consensus' sponsors were interested in pointing out that the
Argentine economic reforms had differences with its 10 recommendations.
On the contrary, Argentina was considered the best pupil of the IMF,
the World Bank and the USA government. The problems which arise with reliance
on a fixed exchange rate mechanism are discussed in the World Bank report
Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform, which questions
whether expectations can be "positively affected by tying a government's hands".
In the early 1990s there was a point of view that countries should move to
either fixed or completely flexible exchange rates to reassure market
participants of the complete removal of government discretion in foreign
exchange matters. After the Argentina collapse, some observers believe that
removing government discretion by creating mechanisms that impose large
penalties may, on the contrary, actually itself undermine expectations. Velasco
and Neut "argue that if the world is uncertain and there are situations in
which the lack of discretion will cause large losses, a pre-commitment device
can actually make things worse". In chapter 7 of its report the World Bank
analyses what went wrong in Argentina, summarizes the lessons from the
experience, and draws suggestions for its future policy.
The IMF's Independent Evaluation Office has issued a review of the lessons of
Argentina for the institution, summarized in the following quotation:
The Argentine crisis yields a number of lessons for the IMF, some of which have
already been learned and incorporated into revised policies and procedures.
This evaluation suggests ten lessons, in the areas of surveillance and program
design, crisis management, and the decision-making process.
Mark Weisbrot says that, in more recent years, Argentina under former President
Néstor Kirchner made a break with the Consensus and that this led to a
significant improvement in its economy; some add that Ecuador may soon follow
suit. However, while Kirchner's reliance on price controls and similar
administrative measures clearly ran counter to the spirit of the Consensus,
his administration in fact ran an extremely tight fiscal ship and
maintained a highly competitive floating exchange rate; Argentina's immediate
bounce-back from crisis, further aided by abrogating its debts and a fortuitous
boom in prices of primary commodities, leaves open issues of longer-term
sustainability. The Economist has argued that the Néstor Kirchner administration
will end up as one more in Argentina's long history of populist governments. In
October 2008, Kirchner's wife and successor as President, Cristina
Kirchner, announced her government's intention to nationalize pension funds
from the privatized system implemented by Menem-Cavallo. Accusations have
emerged of the manipulation of official statistics under the Kirchners to create
an inaccurately positive picture of economic performance. The Economist
removed Argentina's inflation measure from its official indicators, saying
that they were no longer reliable. In 2003, Argentina's and Brazil's
presidents, Néstor Kirchner and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the "Buenos
Aires Consensus", a manifesto opposing the Washington Consensus' policies.
Skeptical political observers note, however, that Lula's rhetoric on such
public occasions should be distinguished from the policies actually implemented
by his administration. This said, Lula da Silva paid the whole of Brazil's debt
with the IMF two years in advance, freeing his government from IMF
tutelage, as did Néstor Kirchner's government in 2005.
Subsidies for agriculture The Washington Consensus as formulated
by Williamson includes provision for the redirection of public spending from
subsidies toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services
like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment. This
definition leaves some room for debate over specific public spending programs.
One area of public controversy has focused on the issues of subsidies to
farmers for fertilizers and other modern farm inputs: on the one hand, these can
be criticized as subsidies, on the other, it may be argued that they
generate positive externalities that might justify the subsidy involved.
Some critics of the Washington Consensus cite Malawi's experience with
agricultural subsidies, for example, as exemplifying perceived flaws in the
package's prescriptions. For decades, the World Bank and donor nations pressed
Malawi, a predominantly rural country in Africa, to cut back or eliminate
government fertilizer subsidies to farmers. World Bank experts also urged
the country to have Malawi farmers shift to growing cash crops for export and to
use foreign exchange earnings to import food. For years, Malawi hovered on the
brink of famine; after a particularly disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost
five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid. Malawi's
newly elected president Bingu wa Mutharika then decided to reverse
policy. Introduction of deep fertilizer subsidies, abetted by good rains, helped
farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007; according to
government reports, corn production leapt from 1.2 million metric tons in
2005 to 2.7 million in 2006 and 3.4 million in 2007. The prevalence of acute
child hunger has fallen sharply and Malawi recently turned away emergency
food aid. In a commentary on the Malawi experience
prepared for the Center for Global Development, development economists
Vijaya Ramachandran and Peter Timmer argue that fertilizer subsidies in parts
of Africa can have benefits that substantially exceed their costs. They
caution, however, that how the subsidy is operated is crucial to its long-term
success, and warn against allowing fertilizer distribution to become a
monopoly. Ramachandran and Timmer also stress that African farmers need more
than just input subsidies—they need better research to develop new inputs
and new seeds, as well as better transport and energy infrastructure. The
World Bank reportedly now sometimes supports the temporary use of fertilizer
subsidies aimed at the poor and carried out in a way that fosters private
markets: "In Malawi, Bank officials say they generally support Malawi's policy,
though they criticize the government for not having a strategy to eventually end
the subsidies, question whether its 2007 corn production estimates are inflated
and say there is still a lot of room for improvement in how the subsidy is
carried out". Continuing controversy
Most Latin American countries continue to struggle with high poverty and
underemployment. Chile has been offered as an example of a Consensus success
story, and countries such as El Salvador and Panama have also shown some positive
signs of economic development. Brazil, despite relatively modest rates of
aggregate growth, has seen important progress in recent years in the
reduction of poverty. This is counterweight, since the last two
Brazilian socialist presidents have adjusted modest socialist reforms.
Joseph Stiglitz has argued that the Chilean success story owes a lot to
state ownership of key industries, particularly its copper industry, and
currency interventions stabilizing capital flows. Many other economists,
though, argue that Chile's economic success is largely due to its
combination of sound macroeconomics and market-oriented policies.
There have been claims of discrepancies between the Washington Consensus as
propounded by Williamson, and the policies actually implemented with the
endorsement of the Washington institutions themselves. For example,
the Washington Consensus stated a need for investment in education, but the
policies of fiscal discipline promoted by the International Monetary Fund have
sometimes in practice led countries to cut back public spending on social
programs, including such areas as basic education. Those familiar with the work
of the IMF respond that, at a certain stage, countries near bankruptcy have to
cut back their public spending one way or another to live within their means.
Washington may argue for enlightened choices among different public spending
priorities, but in the last analysis it is domestically elected political
leaders who ultimately have to make the tough political choices.
Missing elements A significant body of economists and
policy-makers argues that what was wrong with the Washington Consensus as
originally formulated by Williamson had less to do with what was included than
with what was missing. This view asserts that countries such as Brazil, Chile,
Peru and Uruguay, largely governed by parties of the left in recent years, did
not—whatever their rhetoric—in practice abandon most of the substantive elements
of the Consensus. Countries that have achieved macroeconomic stability through
fiscal and monetary discipline have been loath to abandon it: Lula, the former
President of Brazil, has stated explicitly that the defeat of
hyperinflation was among the most important positive contributions of the
years of his presidency to the welfare of the country's poor, although the
remaining influence of his policies on tackling poverty and maintaining a
steady low rate of inflation are being discussed and doubted in the wake of the
Brazilian Economic Crisis currently occurring in Brazil.
These economists and policy-makers would, however, overwhelmingly agree
that the Washington Consensus was incomplete, and that countries in Latin
America and elsewhere need to move beyond "first generation" macroeconomic
and trade reforms to a stronger focus on productivity-boosting reforms and direct
programs to support the poor. This includes improving the investment
climate and eliminating red tape, strengthening institutions, fighting
poverty directly via the types of Conditional Cash Transfer programs
adopted by countries like Mexico and Brazil, improving the quality of primary
and secondary education, boosting countries' effectiveness at developing
and absorbing technology, and addressing the special needs of historically
disadvantaged groups including indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant
populations across Latin America. Alternative usage vis-a-vis foreign
policy In early 2008, the term "Washington
Consensus" was used in a different sense as a metric for analyzing American
mainstream media coverage of U.S. foreign policy generally and Middle East
policy specifically. Marda Dunsky writes, "Time and again, with
exceedingly rare exceptions, the media repeat without question, and fail to
challenge the "Washington consensus"—the official mind-set of US governments on
Middle East peacemaking over time." According to syndicated columnist
William Pfaff, Beltway centrism in American mainstream media coverage of
foreign affairs is the rule rather than the exception: "Coverage of
international affairs in the US is almost entirely Washington-driven. That
is, the questions asked about foreign affairs are Washington's questions,
framed in terms of domestic politics and established policy positions. This
invites uninformative answers and discourages unwanted or unpleasant
views." Like the economic discussion above the foreign policy usage of the
term has less to do with what is included than with what is missing.
A similar view, though by a different name, is taken by Fairness & Accuracy In
Reporting, a progressive media criticism organization. They note "Official
Agendas" as one of nine 'issue areas' they view as causing 'What's Wrong With
the News?" They note: "Despite the claims that the press has an adversarial
relationship with the government, in truth U.S. media generally follow
Washington's official line. This is particularly obvious in wartime and in
foreign policy coverage, but even with domestic controversies, the spectrum of
debate usually falls in the relatively narrow range between the leadership of
the Democratic and Republican parties." See also
References Sources
= Primary sources = Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan
Africa: An Agenda for Action, Eliot Berg, coord.,.
After the Washington Consensus: Restarting Growth and Reform in Latin
America, Kuczynski, Pedro-Paul, and John Williamson, eds., Washington, D.C.,
Institute for International Economics, 2003.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, by Michael Novak.
El Otro Sendero, by Hernando de Soto. Toward Renewed Economic Growth in Latin
America, by Bela Balassa, Gerardo M. Bueno, Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski, and Mario
Henrique. Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has
Happened, edited by John Williamson. The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin
America, edited by Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards.
Global Linkages: Macroeconomic Interdependence and Cooperation in the
World Economy, by Jeffrey Sachs and Warwick McKibbin.
World Development Report 1991: The Challenge of Development, by Lawrence
Summers, Vinod Thomas, et al.. "Development and the "Washington
Consensus"", in World Development Vol 21:1329–1336 by John Williamson.
"Recent Lessons of Development", Lawrence H. Summers & Vinod Thomas.
Latin America's Journey to the Market: From Macroeconomic Shocks to
Institutional Therapy, by Moises Naím. Economistas y Politicos: La Política de
la Reforma Económica, by Agustín Fallas-Santana.
The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered, by George Soros.
Beyond Tradeoffs: Market Reform and Equitable Growth in Latin America,
edited by Nancy Birdsall, Carol Graham, and Richard Sabot.
The Third Way: Toward a Renewal of Social Democracy, by Anthony Giddens.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, by Thomas
Friedman. "Fads and Fashion in Economic Reforms:
Washington Consensus or Washington Confusion?", by Moisés Naím.
Washington Contentious: Economic Policies for Social Equity in Latin
America, by Nancy Birdsall and Augusto de la Torre
"Did the Washington Consensus Fail?", by John Williamson.
After the Washington Consensus, edited by Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski and John
Williamson. Implementing Economic Reforms in Mexico:
The Washington Consensus as a Roadmap for Developing Countries by Terrence
Fluharty ps:digital.library.txstate.edu10877/3488
= Secondary sources = Dani Rodrik - Goodbye Washington
Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? Harvard University, January 2006
Yergin, Daniel; Stanislaw, Joseph. The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the
World Economy. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743229630. Retrieved
3 July 2015. The contentious Washington Consensus:
reforming the reforms in emerging markets. by Carlos Santiso. Review of
International Political Economy 11(4). Stability with Growth: Macroeconomics,
Liberalization, and Development ; by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jose Antonio Ocampo,
Shari Spiegel, Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, and Deepak Nayyar; Oxford University
Press 2006 Economic Crisis and Policy Choice: The
Politics of Adjustment in the Third World, edited by Joan M. Nelson.
Latin American Political Economy in the Age of Neoliberal Reform and Democracy,
Markets, and Structural Reform in Latin America, edited by William C. Smith,
Carlos H. Acuña, and Eduardo A. Gamarra. Crisis and Reform in Latin America: From
Despair to Hope, by Sebastian Edwards. Politics, Social Change, and Economic
Restructuring in Latin America, by William C. Smith and Roberto Patricio
Korzeniewicz. Fault Lines of Democracy in
Post-Transition Latin America, Felipe Agüero and Jeffrey Stark.
What Kind of Democracy? What Kind of Market? Latin America in the Age of
Neoliberalism, by Philip D. Oxhorn and Graciela Ducatenzeiler.
Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity, by Robert N. Gwynne and
Cristóbal Kay. The Internationalization of Palace Wars:
Lawyers, Economists, and the Contest to Transform Latin American States, by Yves
Dezalay and Bryant G. Garth. From the "Washington" towards a "Vienna
Consensus"? A quantitative analysis on globalization, development and global
governance, by Arno Tausch and Christian Ghymers, Nova Science Publishers,
Hauppauge, New York, 2006 FONDAD: Diversity in Development:
Reconsidering the Washington Consensus, edited by Jan Joost Teunissen and Age
Akkerman. The Washington Consensus as Policy
Prescription for Development What Should the World Bank Think about
the Washington Consensus?, by John Williamson.
Fabian Global Forum for Progressive Global Politics: The Washington
Consensus, by Adam Lent. The Economics of Empire - Notes on the
Washington Consensus, by William Finnegan.
Unraveling the Washington Consensus, An Interview with Joseph Stiglitz
The Scorecard on Development, 1960-2010: Closing the Gap? - Center for Economic
and Policy Research report, April 2011 Developing Brazil: overcoming the
failure of the Washington consensus/ Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira/ Lynne
Rienner Publishers,2009 External links
Center for International Development at Harvard University describing the
Washington Consensus Cited links to the above article
Beyond the Washington Consensus by Jeremy Clift


Washington Consensus

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