Since September 1999, the IFIs have recognized that poverty should be at the centre of their development policies. PRSPs are seen as a departure from the orthodox structural adjustment programs (SAPs) for which the Bretton Woods Institutions were known. While PRSPs have attracted a number of responses, both positive and negative, the international trade union movement gave the programs the benefit of the doubt. By participating in the PRSP discussions, the hope would be that the resultant document would be more responsive of trade union and other social needs. Trade unions in the PRSP countries were therefore called upon to ensure that they participate in program formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
However, three years into PRSP implementation there are a number issues that need further exploration. Issues that are of importance to the trade unions include:- quality of consultations and participation of trade unions; budget tracking; content issues; ownership, accountability and transparency issues; a priori determined macroeconomic frameworks; lack of effective structures for consultations; lack of resources to facilitate trade union participation; matters of conditionality; privatisation debates; content issues; etc.
In terms of policy responses to the IFIs, the whole debate focuses around putting in place policy alternatives to those that are advanced by the Washington-based institutions. The bottom line is to ensure that trade unions have the capacity, space and resources to make their views known.