Wetenschap - 16 november 1995

World Bank advocates

World Bank advocates

It was almost as if the World Bank has all of a sudden adopted Marx's ideas of verelendung (impoverishment). Dr Peter Sun and Dr David Groenfeldt gave presentations last Wednesday 8 November on how to hand over the responsibility for irrigation management bureaucracies to farmers. According to them all that needs to be done is to create a financial crisis in the countries concerned and poor irrigation practitioners will take over and end up as the beneficiaries. Both men, from the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, were enthusiastic about the case of Mexico where, as a result of the major financial crisis in the mid 1980's, the government immediately told the farmers to manage the irrigation schemes themselves since the government bureaucracy simply could not afford to do this any more.

This so called Big Bang approach - top-down and rapid change - seems to have worked well in Mexico. Sun and Groenfeldt, feel that this Mexican Model should and could work in other countries as well. However, they could not convincingly explain either their novel opinion or model, despite using full colour overhead transparencies and newly invented words including userism and userization. Both Sun and Groenfeldt are currently working on an international training programme for participatory irrigation management (PIM) supported by the World Bank. Countries which join this programme commit themselves to a series of seminars which progressively detail a national strategy for implementing participatory approaches to irrigation management. Groenfeldt explained in his presentation of the programme that they are in favour of the Mexican Model, since long-term, bottom-up approaches, as have been tried in the Philippines, for instance, have not proved suc
cessful.

Groenfeldt admits that he has no proof as to why the Mexican case is successful. He bases his assumptions on the fact that criticism of World Bank activities is usually voiced quickly, and that in the case of Mexico there is so far no evidence to refute his theory. However, some World Bank critics assert that the World Bank together with the International Monetary Fund are quite adept at precipitating financial crises in many countries around the world. Groenfeldt and Sun, however, failed to address the cases of other countries in financial crisis where no handing over of irrigation management has occurred.

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