Mario Pezzini: why the Washington Consensus is outdated

Eleanor Sa-Carneiro

Pezzini argues that historic groupings, created during the Cold War, are increasingly anachronistic in a more globalised world where economic growth can follow many different paths. The old Washington Consensus which assumed that all countries would develop politically and economically along the same route as Europe and the U.S. has been exposed as a power play. This approach not only failed to benefit all developing countries but also proved ineffective for some of the countries advocating for a singular path to economic development. Consequently, the admonition of “Do as I say, and not as I do!” has become progressively conspicuous.

“In the 70s, the accent was put on aid and trade, or finance and commerce, as the passport for development” explains Pezzini, besides a change in focus and its accompanying wording, “from ‘development’ to ‘cooperation’ and from ‘cooperation’ quickly changing to ‘aid’”. Criticism of the model of aid or ‘development assistance’ is on the rise, especially in the countries of the South, with South-South Cooperation strengthening as the Global South seeks partnerships and cooperation on a level playing field. 

The call for changes in practices and enhanced communication between those providing assistance and those receiving it has been a longstanding demand. Southern nations have grown increasingly impatient as they await the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes, and a seat at the table. Pezzini asserts that decisions concerning the present and the future should be collaborative, especially given the evolving landscape of donor countries, and the emergence of new donors. Economic blocs such as the BRICS which added six new members this year, or the G20’s recent addition of permanent membership to the African Union under India’s G20 presidency last month is another sign of the changing times. 

Mario Pezzini believes that a paradigm shift is urgent and indispensable and, in this Qonversation, discusses the need to reform, or rethink traditional cooperation and development models, reform institutions and frameworks, suggesting regional groupings could be a solution and a start, and move to a global level to discuss issues such as “global public goods, the environment, health, migration”. 

The question remains whether a relationship of solidarity and dialogue between equals, as advocated by Pezzini, and as requested by the Global South is an easier feat among neighbours across all regions, even before we go global. 

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