The Washington Consensus as Policy Prescription for Development

Lecture for the series "Practitioners of Development" The World Bank Washington, DC

January 13, 2004

The Washington Consensus as I originally formulated it was not written as a policy prescription for development: it was a list of policies that I claimed were widely held in Washington to be widely desirable in Latin America as of the date the list was compiled, namely the second half of 1989. Of course, development was the main objective of the countries in question; the point is that my agenda excluded policies even if I believed they would promote development unless I was also convinced that they commanded a consensus. But it has been widely interpreted—and by sympathetic observers like Fischer (2003), not just by critics—as offering a policy prescription (and as being of wider application than in Latin America). That is sufficient to make it of interest to ask whether it was a good prescription. Asking that question will also provide the occasion to ask what a good policy prescription would be.

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John Williamson Former Research Staff

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