Sunday, September 30, 2007

Economists claim “policy space” is critical to achieving development goals in Africa.

Sources: (Ghana): "Africa needs economic think-tank"
Third World Network: “TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues”

“Policy space” is a term that refers to the ability of nations to choose the policy options they believe are best-suited to their development strategies. Policy space has become a hot issue for developing countries. This is because of growing concerns that the expansion of international trade as well as the rules and conditions linked to loans and aid are hampering developing countries' efforts at economic growth and poverty reduction.

The importance of reclaiming policy space in the developing world is the theme of a 2007 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Economic Development in Africa: Reclaiming Policy Space: Domestic Resource Mobilization and Development States.”

Economics consultant Dr. Nii Moi spoke at the release of the UNCTAD report, calling for the creation of an economic think-tank in Africa that could assist in providing policy development from an African perspective. Dr. Moi suggested that policy determinations of the past and present have been driven by the interests and misconceptions of the developed world in and about Africa.

The claim was reiterated that a policy approach that works in one African nation is not guaranteed to function in another. Further, it was noted that such a one-size-fits-all approach—as well as a regrettable degree of self-dealing that was permitted if not endorsed by the BWIs—has hurt African interests across the board.

One UNCTAD official, a Dr. Gyan-Baffour, asserted that there has been such a shrinkage of policy space for developing countries that their very ability to achieve economic development is threatened.

Is “policy space” just another way to say “national sovereignty”?

Are poor nations that rely on foreign aid or development loans less entitled to claims of national sovereignty than the wealthy nations that provide the aid and funding?

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