Structural Adjustment

Mohan, Giles and Chiyemura, Frangton (2020). Structural Adjustment. In: Kobayashi, Audrey ed. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Elsevier, pp. 61–69.



Structural adjustment 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—originally called SAPs—require liberalization of the economy so that markets can function more easily and the recipient countries are more open to foreign investment. There have been mixed results as part of the structural adjustment process, with most programs having 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 autonomy 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 names, but remain a key part of the international development scene, not least with Greece's recent bail-out.

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