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Structural Adjustment

  • By: Ryan Centner
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

As an approach to macroeconomic reform in poor and middle-income countries, structural adjustment became a standard in lending programs of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the mid 1980s. As an idea, it encapsulates the so-called Washington Consensus among these institutions and the relevant departments of the U.S. government (e.g., the Treasury, the Agency for International Development), all based in Washington, D.C. Following major national defaults throughout the developing world in 1982, these lenders implemented stricter conditions for disbursing funds, requiring debtors to “adjust” the “structures” of their economies. Principally, this move entailed scaling back both state regulation of financial markets and subsidies for key industries (e.g., manufacturing) and utilities (e.g., communications, energy). The goal was to make indebted countries—in Latin America, ...

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