A look back at the Washington Consensus

The free trade turn of the World Bank’s transport infrastructure projects
By Sidy Cissokho


The term “Washington Consensus” is usually used to refer to a liberal-inspired set of measures implemented in the late 1980s, primarily aimed at developing countries. The use of this expression reduces our understanding of the creation and spread of these policies. By looking at how the World Bank’s transport infrastructure projects became free-trade-oriented in the 1980s, this paper throws into question our knowledge about these measures, how they spread, and the groups that promoted them. This free trade dimension of the World Bank’s infrastructure projects is not related to any ideological conversion of its employees to the neo-liberal dogma, but rather to the redefinition of roles within the organization’s daily operations. Moreover, it is not supported by economists, but by engineers. Based on this example, the article advocates paying more attention to the diversity of liberal turns, rather than their common features.


  • World Bank
  • development
  • Washington Consensus
  • structural adjustments
  • free trade
  • archives
  • infrastructure
  • transport
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info