Donor influence, the Minister of Finance and welfare policy reform in Zambia, 2003-11

Year: 
2016
Working Paper Number: 
395
Author: 
Abigail Kabandula and Jeremy Seekings
Abstract: 
In Zambia, as in much of Africa, the introduction of ‘social cash transfers’ was driven by donors and international agencies. Donors initiated pilot cash transfer programmes in Zambia in 2003-04. Although the Zambian Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) government included in policy documents a notional commitment to scaling up these pilot programmes, it had barely begun to implement this commitment by the time of its electoral defeat and removal from office in 2011. Donors mobilised limited support within the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, but ran up against serious resistance, personified in the Minister of Finance. Resistance to policy reforms was in part ideological. The Minister of Finance was deeply sceptical about cash transfer programmes. His beliefs – which combined neoliberal, conservative and productivist features – accorded with the general approach of the MMD governments of the 2000s. Whilst the MMD also comprised a coalition of regional patrons, neopatrimonialism played a minor role in the resistance to cash transfer programmes. Indeed, the scholarship on neopatrimonialism – and on party politics generally – underestimates the importance of ideology in countries such as Zambia in the 2000s. The Zambian case points to the limits of donor power, especially when donor-supported reforms contradict deep-rooted ideological beliefs among domestic political elites.
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