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Experience of Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) in Asia

Research reports

• There are clear conceptual and paper links between PRSs and national development plans in many countries, but these are yet to be tested in practice and are likely to depend on the extent of PRS ownership beyond central ministries (presently low).

• Political actors and parties are currently disengaged from the PRS process in most of the countries surveyed.

• Preparation of the PRS is frequently the subject of ongoing tensions between Ministries of Finance and Ministries of Planning (epitomised by the historical split between the recurrent and development budget).

• Links between the PRS and the budget or MTEF are weak in most cases. Poorly prioritised and costed PRSs explain some of this problem, as do underlying weaknesses in budgeting processes, but there are also specific problems in the way the PRS fits into the recurrent/development budget divide.

• Monitoring and evaluation is not a ‘live issue’ in many countries, but where it is there is a tendency towards indicator proliferation and a disconnection between PRS monitoring and MDG monitoring. Linking local information to central systems will be a challenge. Vague commitments to participatory monitoring are being made but not yet put into practice.

• Participation has been dominated by NGOs and large CSOs, although research and academic bodies have been more engaged than in other regions. The participatory process has drawn heavy criticism from some quarters; although there has also been high praise from others.

• At present the PRS is not providing a catalyst for greater donor coordination: where there was existing momentum in this direction, the PRS has provided an opportunity to strengthen it; where this momentum does not exist, the PRS is not being seized as an opportunity to address the problem.

• There is a temptation for donors to repackage their assistance as being PRS related – an easy option since PRSs are often poorly prioritised and cover a great deal of ground.

• There is a lack of clarity in expectations around the annual PRS progress report and the JSA process. The JSA process has been relatively closed to stakeholder engagement in most cases.

• The Bank (and Fund) is orienting itself towards the PRS in most of the countries surveyed. But engagement with the PRS process does not automatically equate with support for greater country ownership.

• The Asian Development Bank is supporting the PRS process in most countries despite having doubts on the merits of the initiative.

• DFID’s own assistance to the PRS process in Asia is generally part of a broader package of assistance. Direct support to the PRS process is often a very small percentage of the overall aid programme but this is expected to grow as PRSs move into the implementation stage.