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Past Event

Washington Consensus revisited

A joint Brookings Global Economy and Development program and Center for International Development at Harvard symposium

Past Event

Washington Consensus revisited - Morning sessions

In 1989, economist John Williamson coined the term “Washington Consensus” for a set of 10 market-oriented policies that Washington-based institutions prescribed for improving economic performance in “third world countries.” Centered around fiscal discipline, market-oriented domestic reforms, and openness to trade and investment, the Washington Consensus inspired the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to pursue a reform agenda that was resisted as aggressively as it was pursued.

Early on, the Washington Consensus was heavily criticized for failing to improve economic and social conditions, but a new symposium of papers published in the summer 2021 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) reviews three decades of evidence that provides a different perspective.

On September 23, the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development program and Harvard University’s Center for International Development co-hosted a virtual symposium to discuss the outcomes of four studies published in the JEP and the implications for future policymaking aimed at improving economic performance in the regions highlighted in the studies. At the symposium, panels of experts from academia, civil society, and other key stakeholders:

  • Provided an overview of their recent research;
  • Discussed emerging evidence on the links between performance & policy adoption;
  • Shared examples from case studies on country experiences with policy reform;
  • And identified lessons for policy reform, discussed areas for further research, and studied the role of Washington Consensus policies in policy reform.

Viewers submitted questions via email to or via Twitter at #WashingtonConsensus.


Welcome and opening remarks

Session 1 | Washington Consensus overview

See the Session 1 paper here.

Session 2 | Latin America experience

See the Session 2 paper here.


Ilan Goldfajn

Director - Western Hemisphere Department - International Monetary Fund

José De Gregorio

Professor of Economics - University of Chile

Former Governor - Central Bank of Chile

Laura Alfaro

Warren Alpert Professor of Business Administration - Harvard Business School


Session 3 | Sub-Saharan Africa experience

See the Session 3 paper here.

Bill Easterly

Professor of Economics - New York University

Co-director - NYU Development Research Institute

Research Associate - National Bureau of Economic Research

Session 4 | Washington Consensus and global development experience

See the Session 4 paper here.


Michael Spence

Nobel laureate

Professor and Dean Emeritus - Stanford University

Chairman - Advisory Board of Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies

Closing Remarks

More Information

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