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Washington Consensus - UPSC Current Affairs

The "Washington Consensus" is a list of economic policies that gained support among Latin American policymakers in response to the 1980s debt crisis. The policies, backed by international institutions and the US Treasury, include fiscal discipline, tax reform, market-determined interest rates, trade liberalization, and more. Debate continues on their efficacy, but recent research suggests they bring tangible benefits to GDP without significantly increasing inequality.

Feb 01, 2023

3 min read

Washington Consensus is a set of economic policies that have been widely adopted by developing countries in recent decades. This consensus was created to help boost economic growth and reduce poverty in these countries. The Washington Consensus includes ten principles, including fiscal discipline, reducing inflation, trade liberalization, market-oriented reforms, and privatization of state-owned enterprises.




The term "Washington Consensus" was first used in 1989 by economist John Williamson of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He was referring to a set of economic policies that gained widespread support among Latin American policymakers as a solution to the debt crisis and macroeconomic instability of the early to mid-1980s. These policies were supported by experts at international institutions based in Washington, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as the US Treasury.


The policies attached to the Washington Consensus was widely implemented in many Latin American countries in the 1980s and 1990s, and it had some positive effects, such as increasing investment, boosting economic growth, and reducing inflation. However, its implementation was also criticized for exacerbating income inequality and social exclusion.


The Washington Consensus policies included maintaining fiscal discipline, prioritizing public spending, reforming tax policies, allowing market-determined interest rates, maintaining a competitive exchange rate, liberalizing trade, permitting foreign investment, privatizing state enterprises, deregulating entry and exit barriers, and securing property rights. These policies were seen as a departure from the state-dominated economic systems that were prevalent in developing countries in the 1950s.


The policies of the Washington Consensus have been both criticized particularly in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and praised by economists. Some had pointed to their negative impact on the economies of poor countries and that it has not been successful in promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty and contributed to increased inequality and social unrest in many countries. On the other hand, some highlight the tangible benefits they have had on economic growth and development.


In response to these criticisms, many have called for a re-evaluation of the Washington Consensus, arguing that it should be updated to better reflect the realities of the 21st century. Proponents of this view suggest that the consensus should be revised to include measures that promote greater equality and social inclusion, such as increased investment in education, healthcare, and infrastructure, as well as stronger environmental protections.


Despite its criticisms, the Washington Consensus remains a major influence on economic policy in developing countries, and it continues to shape the discourse around global economic development. As such, it is important to carefully consider its impacts, both positive and negative, as well as to explore alternative approaches that may be better suited to promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty in the developing world.


In conclusion, the Washington Consensus is a set of economic policies that have been widely adopted in developing countries, but its effectiveness and impact have been the subject of much debate. While it has had some positive effects, it has also been criticized for exacerbating inequality and social exclusion. In light of these criticisms, there is a growing call for a re-evaluation of the Washington Consensus and for the development of alternative approaches that better promote sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty in the developing world.

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