Most early literature found that they failed to improve socioeconomic conditions in African countries for several reasons due to, among others, the failure to account for political economy within countries, and the politics of conditionality and reforms that did not adequately emphasize the role of local ownership in domestic economic policy. Over three decades after the initial reforms, in a new paper , we revisit the evidence of the links between the adoption of these Washington Consensus policies and economic performance in sub-Saharan Africa. We find that following initial declines in per capita economic growth over the 1980s and 1990s, the countries that adopted the reforms experienced notable increases in per capita real GDP growth in the post-2000 period. We complement the aggregate analysis with four country case studies that highlight important lessons for effective reform. Notably, the ability to implement pro-poor policies alongside market-oriented reforms played a central role in successful policy performance. secret info The findings of this paper could offer a useful guide to policymakers as they ramp up the structural reform agendas to build back better post-COVID economies. The ability to implement pro-poor policies alongside market-oriented reforms played a central role in successful policy performance. The Washington Consensus reforms and socioeconomic performance Some of the key policy reforms of the Washington Consensus/SAP period of the 1980s and 1990s included privatization, fiscal discipline, and trade openness, that were introduced by IFIs as conditions for debt relief to highly indebted, economically constrained African countries. The expectation was that market-oriented reforms would correct domestic policy-induced distortions in prices, such as overvalued exchange rates, subsidies that led to artificially low agricultural commodity prices, high wage rates, low interest rates, and subsidized agricultural input prices, which introduced inefficiencies in resource allocation, worsening shortages and reducing economic output. Several African countries adopted these policies, often under conditionality, in the 1980s and 1990s. Most early literature finds that the policies failed to improve economic conditions in these countries as the politics of IFI conditionality worked to undermine the role of local ownership in shaping domestic economic policy. In addition, reductions in government spending often reduced spending on pro-poor programs, and the removal of agricultural subsidies made it difficult for African farmers to compete on international markets. The results were increased unemployment and sociopolitical unrest in several African countries over this period. More recent literature has highlighted that reforms were successful in improving economic growth when policymakers had the state capacity to implement them, and when, crucially, reforms were paired with pro-poor policies, spearheaded by governments. A stable government and sociopolitical environment with a focus on pro-poor policies was an essential ingredient in implementing successful reforms. With the benefit of more recent data, we revisit market-oriented reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, notably privatization, fiscal discipline, and trade openness. Between 2000 and 2019, African economies experienced remarkable improvements in economic growth, with median country real GDP per capita growth rising from 0.2 percent per year on average in the 1980s and 1990s, when many of the reforms were first implemented, to 1.6 percent over 2000 to 2019. Inflation rates in the region have also declined from double digits in the 1980s and 1990s to stabilize at around 5 percent in the past two decades. Comparing the reform countries to non-reform countries, we find that during the initial reform years, economic performance was worse for reformers, with average per capita real GDP growth declining in the 1980s and 1990s.https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/02/19/how-have-the-washington-consensus-reforms-affected-economic-performance-in-sub-saharan-africa/
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