Policy-based loans are large IFI investments that require painful restructuring of poor country economies. The common policy prescriptions, also known as loan conditionalities, often require governments to implement reforms such as privatization of essential services and cutting government spending that reduce services to the poor. Often these reforms violate national sovereignty by sidestepping legislative processes. They can also violate human rights, for example by raising unemployment and pushing the new jobless and the already poor into deeper poverty. Multinational corporations benefit most from these measures, for example, from privatizing water and requiring unreciprocated unilateral trade tariff removal. Poor people—the majority of whom are women—suffer from these measures carried out in the name of poverty reduction.

Policy based loans come in many forms: when they began in the early 1980s they were called Structural Adjustment Loans or Programs (SALs or SAPs), Sector Adjustment Loans, Structural Adjustment Facilities and Economic Recovery Credits. Due to pressure from civil society groups regarding the negative human impacts of SAPs, often they have been renamed Poverty Reduction Support Credits (PRSCs) in the case of the World Bank and Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities (PRGFs) in the case of the IMF to indicate their close tie to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). Despite their poverty reduction names, PRSCs, PRGFs and PRSPs perpetuate classic policy prescriptions that undermine poverty reduction (Engendering Country Strategies).

Gender Action monitors the gender impacts of these programs and carries out advocacy with local partners to mitigate the harmful effects of donor-driven policy-based lending on low-income women and men.

Women are the first to lose jobs and the last to be rehired in public sector downsizing because they are unfairly assumed to be secondary breadwinners although in reality increasing numbers of households are female headed. Their work at home tends to increase with the loss of child and health care programs. This squeezes out their time they can spend searching for new work and earning when they find jobs.

Men who lose jobs often turn to drinking and domestic violence rises. The IFIs have barely addressed these destructive trends.

In late 2006 Gender Action published its Gender Guide to World Bank and International Monetary Fund Policy-Based Lending to provide tools to Southern and Northern citizens groups to conduct gender analyses of World Bank and IMF policy-based loans. We found that policy-based loans often aggravate discrimination against women and girls by intensifying poverty, trafficking in and violence against women, prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The Guide promotes alternative economic policies based on country- and human rights-centered approaches to development. Guide annexes include a toolkit for stakeholders to analyze Bank and Fund policies and investments for gender equality, a glossary of terms, and a list of resources. Gender Action is following up this important work with workshops and trainings based on the Guide.

Gender Action is a founding, active member of the first concerted global Shrink or Sink campaign against the IMF officially launched in September 2006. Gender Action’s work exposes how IMF policy-based loans violate women’s rights. For example, IMF-mandated tariff reductions undermine the livelihood of farmers, the majority of whom are women in the world’s poorest countries. The campaign promotes citizen audits of IMF debts with parliamentary participation and alternative human rights-centered economic policies and financing mechanisms. Together with the Bretton Woods Project, Eurodad, 50 Years Is Enough Network, Focus on the Global South, Jubilee South, and Jubilee USA Network, Gender Action co-sponsored a conference on alternatives to strings-attached financing in Thailand in July 2007.

In late 2007, the Shrink or Sink Campaign expanded into a broader Anti-IMF Campaign. The campaign is finalizing a common statement, creating working groups, expanding membership and exploring projects. Watch for further news on the Anti-IMF Campaign.

Gender Action launched its first Economic Reforms and Gender program with local partners in Serbia and Montenegro where in 2004 over 80 percent of World Bank investments supported SAPs. Our Serb partners, the Belgrade-based Association for Women's Initiatives, found the privatization program did not consider any data on the social profile of employees who lose their jobs in restructured enterprises. They concluded, "Without such data it is not possible to create specific support programs to increase self-employment, SME development and, job creation."



© 2006 Gender Action, All Rights Reserved

Engendering Country Strategies
Economic reforms and gender

Women's Rights in Peace and Conflict

Tracking IFI Gender Implementation
Women, the Environment and Infrastructure

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