Structural adjustment

Mohan, G. (2009). Structural adjustment. In: Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N. eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 11. Oxford, UK: Elsevier, pp. 1–9.



Structural adjustment may sound technical, but refers to the comprehensive economic programs that the major international lenders require of developing countries when they are granted a loan. These structural adjustment programs – called SAPs - require liberalization of the economy so that markets can function more easily and the recipient countries are more open to foreign investment. The impacts of these programs have been limited with a few success stories, and in the main produced negligible or negative impacts. Worst hit are the poor and vulnerable, who suffer unemployment, job insecurity, rising prices, reduced services, and ecological marginalization. Politically, SAPs signal a further erosion of sovereignty for developing countries and they create parallel governments run by unaccountable technical experts. This centralization is set against claims to decentralize control and decision-making to the localities. SAPs have changed name in the last decade, but are set to stay a key part of the international development scene.

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