Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and Water: Failing the poor?
In September 1999, the IMF and World Bank agreed to increase the amount of debt relief on offer to eligible low-income countries through the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. This was conditional on countries developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Forty-one countries were included in the initiative, 32 of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers are essentially about prioritizing budget allocations in order to achieve poverty reduction objectives. As such, the development of PRSPs presents an important opportunity for those working for water supply and sanitation (WSS) improvements, which historically are poorly prioritised and inadequately funded by governments.
When poor people are directly asked about poverty, in the majority of cases they identify the lack of access to water as one of the key causes of poverty and improving access to water as one of the top priorities in reducing poverty. However decades of developments in water infrastructure involving billions of dollars have not only largely excluded the poor from benefiting from these investments but have exacerbated their lack of access to this precious resource. At the UN Millennium Summit, sustainable access to safe water was included in the Millennium Development Goals as contributing to achieving poverty reduction.