February 19, 2003

ZAMBIA: Discussion on too much reliance on World Bank

There has been too much over reliance on institutions like the World Bank for development initiatives, observed World Bank senior environmental specialist for Africa region Arne Dalfelt February 18. In an interview at Lusaka's Pamodzi Hotel after the opening of a workshop on managing sustainable development locally, Dalfelt said African countries should be in the fore front of their own development. "Development rests on the seriousness of national governments and there has been too much over reliance on institutions like the World Bank for development initiatives," Dalfelt said. "We hope to see Africa to really show a way forward with concrete actions for development."

Dalfelt said the World Bank was still in favour of privatisation as a way of ensuring sustainable development. He said the bank favoured involvement of private sector in development. Dalfelt said the private sector was stronger in terms of resource mobilisation but that they needed to be regulated in order to address past failures. However, Dalfelt said the World Bank was "not saying you have to privatise everything". "Government should have strong supervision of the private sector to ensure there are no extremes. You see, the problems in Africa, of providing water, electricity would be efficiently tackled if more private enterprises are involved," he said. Dalfelt said privatisation remained an important aspect of getting the private sector involved in development efforts. He said government cannot afford to provide the services efficiently hence the need for private sector involvement.

As a reaction, the Zambian newspaper The Post wrote in an editorial that the speech of Dalfelt was "surprising". "We find this surprising not because we think what Dalfelt is saying is wrong but because the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have always told us that there were no alternatives to their structural adjustment programmes and neoliberal policies. We also find this surprising because it were these same institutions that ostracised Zambia in the mid 1980s when Dr. Kenneth Kaunda's UNIP government decided to do its own thing and abandoned World Bank and IMF programmes and policies. Despite achieving some positive results during that period when Zambia undertook its own development initiatives, the country was denied any support and was literally blackmailed. Dalfelt says African countries should be in the forefront of their own development. Yes, they want to, and are struggling to be, in the forefront of their own development but they are not being allowed to progress along an independent path by the World Bank and the IMF." (The Post, Lusaka)

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