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Thursday, 26 July 2007

Unpacking Zambia’s land related corruption….

Maurice Mbolela, Executive Secretary of Local Government Association of Zambia provides the most cogent explanation yet on the dynamics of land related corruption in the latest ZIPPA Journal:

“Generally, development has suffered in that service land has become scare against increased demand. This shortage has caused unorthodox methods of land allocation to emerge, which have resulted in the proliferation and growth of unplanned settlements without basic services such as roads, water, sanitation, refuse disposal and electricity.

Further, as demand for land has increased, even those entrusted with the agency to manage land matters at local level have fallen prey to corrupt tendencies. Worse still, there have been allegations linking the Office of the Commissioner of Lands to land allocation using underhand methods”.
In these two paragraphs Maurice conveys a frequently overlooked point : not only is land reform important in dealing with issues related to urban development and lack of housing as I have argued here, but it is also at the heart of eliminating corruption. You cannot simply legislate against land related corruption or fire corrupt people, and hope to get better ones (the so-called “dedicated fellow hypothesis”). The real solution is to eliminate the opportunity for being corrupt. The scarcity of land in urban areas (which drives up the benefits of corruption to the administrators) and the opportunity to be corrupt (due to weak allocative mechanism) acts as self reinforcing dynamic mechanisms that can only be shattered through adequate land reform. And that land reform requires simultaneously dealing with the scarcity of land and the inedaquacy of the current land allocation mechanism.

14 comments:

  1. The real solution is to eliminate the opportunity for being corrupt.

    Right. And then we come to the real reason for corruption - it benefits those currently in power.

    The way to sidestep that, is to go over their heads, and go directly to the World Bank and IMF, a major source of their funding (through 'donor funds').

    If they start demanding that certain types of systems are put in place, it will happen.

    Does anyone remember when Mwanawasa cracked down on corruption at the ministry of lands, only to find out that his own daughter had been a recipient of land?

    But in essence, systems have to be put in place. It would be interesting for anyone who is rewriting the Zambian constitution, to study the American system of checks and balances, and the proper separation of the powers of state.

    Just monitoring the government's payments will save hundreds of millions of dollars. Just going by statements made by procurement officers, the $250 million recently found idling in domestic accounts, etc.

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  2. "The way to sidestep that, is to go over their heads, and go directly to the World Bank and IMF, a major source of their funding (through 'donor funds')."

    I see you have found a useful role for the IMF and World Bank :)

    I thought your general approach is to cut all dealings with them?

    Of course personally, I think you are absolutely right that the IMF and World Bank can do more to help reduce corruption. The problem they face is that "conditionality" has been heavily criticised as infringing on the nationality of others. Its therefore emphasing a lot more on the nation states themselves to ensure they find ways of sorting the corruption menace out.

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  3. Of course personally, I think you are absolutely right that the IMF and World Bank can do more to help reduce corruption. The problem they face is that "conditionality" has been heavily criticised as infringing on the nationality of others.

    Everything can be done badly. The conditionalities placed on countries were mainly 'privatisation' (corporatisation) of parastatals. Or limiting essential services like healthcare and education.

    Now if a conditionality was that governments must account for every cent they receive and spend (without 'the man from the World Bank' deciding whether that spending was 'proper', of course) that would be a good thing.

    If, for some reason, they insisted that governments should spend half of their revenues on local government, that would be great too.

    I think the people working at the World Bank are themselves tired of all the neoliberal dogma that they have incorporated into their policies. There was a real rebellion and rejection of Paul Wolfowitz, not just because of his nepotism concerning his girlfriend, but that was the catalist for it.

    Maybe the World Bank could become an interesting organisation again.

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  4. "Everything can be done badly."

    I guess my question is whether you accept that nations that are ineffective in certain areas should forego their "sovereignity" if the benefits of doing so outweigh the negatives?

    It seems that you are quite prepared to accept the IMF trampling on us as long as they do it properly...some may be uncomfortable with that.

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  5. I guess my question is whether you accept that nations that are ineffective in certain areas should forego their "sovereignity" if the benefits of doing so outweigh the negatives?

    I think it is Ghandi who said that I would rather have bad government by ourselves, than good government from the British (or something along those lines)?

    It seems that you are quite prepared to accept the IMF trampling on us as long as they do it properly...some may be uncomfortable with that.

    How did you derive that from what I said? I simply contrasted useful conditionalities to the highly destructive conditionalities that have so far come forth from the IMF.

    However, how do you suggest we move the government to start accounting for it's own finances? They seem to be totally uninterested in actual accountability.

    Mwanawasa would rather prosecute Chiluba, in part making sure he doesn't come back to power and put him in jail, I'm sure. However, when it comes to accounting for the money spent by his government, or the drawing up of a new constitution, there are all kinds of stalling tactics.

    If this government does not listen to it's own people, they obviously do listen to the IMF and World Bank, mainly because $600 million in their $1700 million budget come from 'donors'.

    How do you suggest we move the government to action on this issue?

    The Zambian state could save hundreds of millions of dollars by just accounting for it's finances properly.

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  6. “How do you suggest we move the government to action on this issue?”

    You have put me on the spot :)
    It’s a difficult question!

    I am from the Easterly school of thought. I believe real change and accountability comes from the grass roots. I mean you are absolutely right the Government listens to IMF and World Bank. First for the reason you have asserted (funding) and secondly, and this is the most important reason for me, they offer the best expertise and advice to them. Zambia has no expertise in many areas in Government or the civil service. Our very best are either politicians or people.

    So I accept that the IMF approach has to be part of the strategy for getting Government to listen. But the other two should be: actively lobbying Government through offering them a route for better advice on issues independent of political dialogue; and pushing for a better and well defined constitution. We need a strong constitution that encourages greater accountability and separation of powers between the various branches of Government and also between the central government and the local government.

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  7. Cho,

    It could be great if the government set up it's own think tank on policy.

    It could even advice the World Bank with regards to local issues.

    It could also serve as a polling organisation during elections, or even between elections. During the last few elections, it was very clear that even the leading politicians themselves were starved for real information about what the electorate was thinking. Lack of information may have played a real factor in why issues were never discussed.

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  8. Mrk,

    It would be great if Zambians themselves took the initiative and started setting up think tanks :)

    We can't always expect Government to act. Government has its own departments that does analysis. We can't therefore expect it to spend more money on thinks.

    What we need are political parties to develop their own think tanks. So PF should have one. MMD should have one and so forth.

    On top of that we as non-political animals need to creat own to voice our opinions and do independent research. I have so many areas for research for Zambia - for example I am passionate about cultural institutions. I can write a paper on this but I have no forum for taking it forward.

    This is why I am very keen that we all support organisations like ZIPPA. Become members and start working with them to offer independent advice. We need more ZIPPAs.

    We need think tanks on Politics, Culture and Economics. Why can't Zambians in diaspora develop these things instead of vying for power?

    I am ranting here - but we constantly look to Government. When we people abroad don't even pay them taxes.

    If you looked at the Mining Agreements issue. It took an Oxford Academic and some other chap to write something down and bring to the fore. If you had a think tank, such issues will be known quicker!

    Same with Zamtel. Its problems have been discussed, but without a think tank pushing for them, we are stuck.

    We need to support the likes of ZIPPA and we need to do all we can to develop other think tanks. There are so many issues and so few minds working together independent of political influence on them.

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  9. What we need are political parties to develop their own think tanks. So PF should have one. MMD should have one and so forth.

    I think that would be way too many for a country with only 11 million people. And what happens to the thinktank when one party merges or one leader dies? What would have happened to a UDA thinktank? Although the party could have seriously used one.

    Maybe they just need to hire the services of a national (or regional) thinktank.

    It would be great if Zambians themselves took the initiative and started setting up think tanks :)

    But who would listen to them?

    Also, usually think tanks are funded by donations from (extremely) wealthy individuals. Who in Zambia has the money to do such a thing?

    I am ranting here - but we constantly look to Government. When we people abroad don't even pay them taxes.

    That's because that is where so much of the money is. $1.1 billion in revenues plus $600 million from 'donors'.

    It seems to be that most of the time, it will be government (or perhaps more accurately the state) who will be most in need of independent policy analysis, to why not look to he government to help set such a thing up?

    In The Guardian:

    Frustrated PhD students who feel their abilities and potential are "stifled" by higher education have set up a new research centre on the grounds of the University of Sussex.

    The Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS) is situated on the Brighton campus, but is independent from the university and will raise its own funding from wealthy individuals.

    The executive director of the centre, Erich Kofmel, said establishing the centre was the only way to tackle "the persistent underfunding" of the UK higher education system and the lack of bursaries and scholarships for research students.


    If this thinktank was more of a marketing organisation, it could get some revenue from doing or coordinating marketing research.

    I think such a thinktank, because of Zambia's relatively small size and small economy, would have to find income from all kinds of different venues, including marketing and PR projects, or be region wide and get contracts from throughout the Southern and Central African region.

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  10. Also, such an institution could go a little way into stemming the braindrain, giving at least some Zambian graduates a way to make money at home.

    So whoever is looking into the braindrain issue, might get on board for such a project.

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  11. "I think that would be way too many for a country with only 11 million people. And what happens to the thinktank when one party merges or one leader dies? What would have happened to a UDA thinktank? Although the party could have seriously used one. "

    I hope that would be an incentive for not merging. Anything that makes these political leaders become principled is a good thing :)

    On a serious note. Think Tanks don't have to be large - For example, you, Gersh and Yakima can create a think tank and align yourself with a particular party and off you go (lets say Ngondo's party lol!!) Error, Arthur, and David can do that with another another etc etc. Think tanks start simple to maintain. But Good think tanks are better independent e.g. ZIPPA. But there's nothing wrong with particular parties aligning themselves with particular think tanks.

    "Maybe they just need to hire the services of a national (or regional) thinktank."

    No that would be a terrible idea. You need COMPETITION and COLLABORATION among think tanks. If you only had one think tank it would probably be very shabby. The good thing about having several is that they will do more work, more specialised and will compete.

    I am very much for special think tanks and having plenty of them.

    "But who would listen to them? "

    No this is the most important question.

    There's no point in having think tanks without an audience. Now MrK as you know - I am strong believer in Say's Law "supplier creates demand". As that movie says "if you build it, they'll come".
    I am quiet sure that if you set up a think tank today with enough quality you wont be short on offers. Trust me on that one. Zambia is thirsty for serious independent analysis of issues. You challenge will not be whether politicians will listen to you, your challenge will be trying to stay independent.

    Rupiah Banda said the reason the Government does what the IMF and World Bank tells them is because the Zambians abroad are not offering them anything to the contrary. I believe the situation is conducive for active think tanking…..:)

    "Also, usually think tanks are funded by donations from (extremely) wealthy individuals. Who in Zambia has the money to do such a thing? "

    First of all, money is not a problem. You come up with a good think tank and get a web presence, their enough international organisations funding this sort of stuff. SIDA for example has enough cash.

    Secondly, its actually cheap to have a think tank. All you need is to get Zambians abroad to be interested in the idea. They will do the research and discuss ideas and that’s it. The ZASN network I am involved in at present is working to bring Zambian expertise from various fields to advise Government - just giving back in any way we can from all areas [the terms of references have been drafted etc ]. I hope we can use it as a standing network of who and who.

    "It seems to be that most of the time, it will be government (or perhaps more accurately the state) who will be most in need of independent policy analysis, to why not look to he government to help set such a thing up?
    Yes of course, Government could help. But I don't favour Government funding think tanks, it compromises the analysis. If the money is given as a charity grant yes. Also it is not only Government in need - our people are need. They need to be brought to a level where they engage in the debate properly based on evidence. Think tanks help to think through issues for the population. They first and foremost aim to serve the people.

    "Also, such an institution could go a little way into stemming the braindrain, giving at least some Zambian graduates a way to make money at home.

    So whoever is looking into the braindrain issue, might get on board for such a project. "

    I agree with that but no one is looking into the brain drain issue. You need a think to look into it. Because you haven't got one [besides ZIPPA] the World Bank does it for you with incredibly mediocre pieces like the one we discussed last time on "temporary migration".

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  12. There was an interesting article in The Time of Zambia, titled Chiefs pursue title deeds

    I'm still not clear about the theoretic and practical differences between 'trust lands', title deeds, communal areas, etc.

    On land insecurity, quoting Henry Machina of the Zambia Land Alliance: “The problem is that the Lands Act of 1995 and the current draft land policy do not protect poor people, who hold land according to their customary system. They think they are safe, but there are many cases of people who have been evicted from their ancestral land because rich investors have acquired the same land with the backing of the law.”

    And...

    Lack of information

    These cases appear due to lack of information and unclear boundary demarcations between state and customary land. Traditional leaders also lack this information. Most of them think that all land surrounding their chiefdoms is customary land when in fact it could be state land – and thereby controlled by the state and not the chief

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  13. MrK,

    An important paper to read on the subject - Land Tenure, Land Markets and Institutional Transformation in Zambia

    Its 280 pages! But stick with it.

    The differences are legal - trust lands have a 99 year lease. Title deeds are just that...can be given on any piece of land or property...
    Communal areas are sort of like reserves..but you may correct me!

    The problem is tenure insecurity...the Chiefs themselves feel insecure because all land is vested into the President..so infact even their 'customary land' can be trampled on by the State....

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  14. Thanks for the file, I'm reading it right now.

    It seems to me that the owners need security of tenure, while at the same time, the state needs stability of tenure. Land ownership should be formulated in such a way to prevent land speculation, or poor people being quickly bought out.

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