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Saturday, 5 April 2008

Quote of the week (Silvia Masebo)

"....Most of these succession disputes are due to greed because the positions have become lucrative. Even where boundaries are clear, some traditional leaders are still encroaching on other people’s land and even selling it. Government is concerned and President Mwanawasa is not happy about such disputes. He has been advising traditional leaders to sort out disputes amicably instead of dragging each other to court...."

- Silvia Masebo (Daily Mail 02/04/2007)

The Minister for Local Government and Housing, Silvia Masebo warning that she will not hesitate to recommend to President Mwanawasa to de-register chiefs whose families are constantly in succession disputes. It appears that she has forgotten that the root cause of all these problems is two fold: a lack of an coherent cultural approach to development that recognises the role of chiefs and the absence of effective land reform. Simply put, most of our chiefs are poor, not well integrated into local and central government, and are now at the mercies of foreign investors. The only surprise here, is that Ms Masebo and her advisers are surprised.

32 comments:

  1. There's so much to say about this.

    For instance, recognizing the role of the chiefs would go against implimenting an effective land reform would ad vice versa. Any type of land reform (collectivization, privatization, lease-systems) will collide against the chiefs' interest who benefits from the confusion between private and communal ownership.

    Not being Zambian, I may be wrong but my experience with other countries doesn't confirm the idea of poorly integrated and poor chiefs in 2008. The recent generations of chiefs are often rich, educated and powerful people who return to their "constutiencies" to become chiefs. And when they're not, they're the ones who control them.

    I don't understand the general sympathy towards chiefs that transpires them. We all know that in colonial times, chiefs and colonists actually worked together through Indirect Rule. Why would anyone believe that chiefs are anymore at the mercy of foreign investors than those were at the mercy of colonists ?

    And the biggest cause behind succession dispute anywhere at anytime in any institutions has always been unclear succession rules. Giving chiefs a status without making them define that status is why no one should be surprised.

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  2. Yes, this is a rich topic indeed.

    On your specifics:

    "For instance, recognizing the role of the chiefs would go against implimenting an effective land reform would ad vice versa"

    I think here you simply have one idea of "recognising". There are many ways of recognising chiefs which would not conflict with land reform. The Botswana land reform for example recognised chiefs by putting them on the land board. Thats just one example. My view actually is much broader. We need to distinguish between appropriate institutions for local governance, from policy issues. I therefore do not think that the conflict is inevitable.

    "Not being Zambian, I may be wrong but my experience with other countries doesn't confirm the idea of poorly integrated and poor chiefs in 2008. The recent generations of chiefs are often rich, educated and powerful people who return to their "constutiencies" to become chiefs. And when they're not, they're the ones who control them."

    Thats the Nollywood image of African chiefs. Most Zambian chiefs do not fit that descriptions. There are layers of chiefs. Senior Chiefs are now more educated than they used to be but certainly remain poor. The lower tier are extremely poor. I speak as a cousin of the current Chief Kazembe. Hence my close (biased?) interest in cultural issues.

    "I don't understand the general sympathy towards chiefs that transpires them. We all know that in colonial times, chiefs and colonists actually worked together through Indirect Rule. Why would anyone believe that chiefs are anymore at the mercy of foreign investors than those were at the mercy of colonists ?"

    On your first point, I think it is not a matter of sympathy. It goes beyond that for me. Its about whether the current TOP DOWN approach to institutions in Zambia, largely driven by the IMF and World Bank is working. The issue for me is whether the existence of a parallel system of local government and chiefs is condusive for growth. I don't think it is. Until we find a way in which we can integrate chiefs within a system of local government and then link them up to national decision making we won't progress in terms of development. I discuss this at length in the blog A cultural approch to Zambia's development....


    On the second question of chiefs being at the mercy of investors. Well it goes back to the fact that chiefs are poor and the only valuable thing they have is land. Investors want land and minerals underneath. The chiefs are therefore at the "mercy" of investors so to speak. Its the same old colonial approach.

    "And the biggest cause behind succession dispute anywhere at anytime in any institutions has always been unclear succession rules."

    Well a distinction between "de-jure" and "de-facto" power helps here I think. Yes rules are useful, but someone can always change them down the line. The issue is the extent to which market and political forces act to change these succession rules. Rules are only worth the environment they are written in. Your point is exactly the government's point and that is what I dispute.

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  3. The Botswana land reform for example recognised chiefs by putting them on the land board. Thats just one example. My view actually is much broader. We need to distinguish between appropriate institutions for local governance, from policy issues. I therefore do not think that the conflict is inevitable.

    You're right, the conflict is not inevitable. But what Botswana did is stripping the chiefs of some of their prerogatives. The house of chiefs had an advisary function and no real powers, local chiefs sit on the land board but do not make land decisions alone, traditional justice is semi-codified and constitutional law trumps traditionnal laws.
    Although I often argue against the view commonly held in progressive and modernist circles that traditionnal institutions are inherently reactionary impediment to progressive objectives, I wouldn't go as far as thinking all of them are not reactionary self-interested small-time oppressor who favour necessary reform.

    Thats the Nollywood image of African chiefs.

    As opposed to the antropological/afrocentrist/african nationalist view ? Hmm.. I wonder which one should be trusted. :-)

    On your first point, I think it is not a matter of sympathy. It goes beyond that for me.

    But you admit having a close (biased?) interest, right ? I think the danger is to define out views on abstract institutions by generalizing from experiences that may be very particular.

    Its about whether the current TOP DOWN approach to institutions in Zambia, largely driven by the IMF and World Bank is working. The issue for me is whether the existence of a parallel system of local government and chiefs is condusive for growth. I don't think it is. Until we find a way in which we can integrate chiefs within a system of local government and then link them up to national decision making we won't progress in terms of development.

    But saying the top down approach to institutions driven by the IMF or as it was in past by the Grand Socialist Third-World Ideology is not working doesn't logically translate in thinking of chiefs as down-top alternative.
    And while I agree that the existence of parallel institutions, be they chiefs and local government, traditionnal and common law (mostly in inheritance), private and communal land-ownership are incodusive for growth, I have yet to read an argument explaining why simply eliminating chiefs or traditionnal law or communal land-ownership wouldn't work. After all the current problem is that governments and societies recognize both .

    Well it goes back to the fact that chiefs are poor and the only valuable thing they have is land. Investors want land and minerals underneath. The chiefs are therefore at the "mercy" of investors so to speak.

    And the people are actually at the mercy of both chiefs and investors/colonists. Furthermore I don't exactly understand why you can argue that corruption in the Police or the government is not just a poverty issue and can't use the scepticism for chiefs.
    If they were less poor, they would just sell their people's land for more and the a bigger check would be in their (private) account.

    Well a distinction between "de-jure" and "de-facto" power helps here I think. Yes rules are useful, but someone can always change them down the line. The issue is the extent to which market and political forces act to change these succession rules. Rules are only worth the environment they are written in. Your point is exactly the government's point and that is what I dispute.

    Rules do include rules about changing the rules ! That's why constitutions typically explain how they can be changed.
    But beyond that, we all know the succession rules have always been vague. Even before colonization, succession conflicts were common. That was indeed one aspect discussed at length in early accounts.
    I'll go even further by arguing that the lack of clarity and the ambivalence of the "rules" is actually why players are so successful at modifying them to their interest.
    It is harder for the wealthiest man to argue that he's the legitimate chief if the successor is the oldest son, and it's harder for conflicts between patrilinear and matrilinear offspring to fight if there's no doubt, its much harder for a mining company to push its favorite if the field of possible successor was less open, it's harder for a chief to cash a check for selling communal land if land holdings were actually mapped and if anyone could know if he "owns" the land privately or if his office does.


    Still, I think your description of the issue is fairly biased. Nowhere (including in the cultural approach post) do I see you even mentionning the possibility that chiefs can be anything but benevolent and positive actors. Did they become superhumans avoid of self-interest when they were crowned ?

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  4. Random,

    “biasness” is a pointless and inefficient accusation. I always think it is unfortunate when analysts refer to assessments as biased. “Unbalanced” may be, but biasness suggests that somehow critical thought emerges from a position without priors, and hence inherently unbiased. At the end of the day, our critique is shaped by our own worldviews and hence inherently circular i.e. inherently biased. But I’ll leave that philosophical discussion, and focus more on the substance of your comments:

    ”You're right, the conflict is not inevitable. But what Botswana did is stripping the chiefs of some of their prerogatives. The house of chiefs had an advisary function and no real powers, local chiefs sit on the land board but do not make land decisions alone, traditional justice is semi-codified and constitutional law trumps traditional laws. “

    My point is that there are ways of integrating chiefs in a coherent system of governance that creates a win-win situation. I never suggested that such an approach did not require a modification to the cultural status quo. There are broad questions about the nature of development that any particular local society aspire to that may determine how trade-offs are made.

    ”As opposed to the antropological/afrocentrist/african nationalist view ? Hmm.. I wonder which one should be trusted. “

    No as opposed to the conventional practice in most cultures. I repeat, the image of rich and powerful chiefs we see in Nigerian / Ghanaian moves is not prevalent in our society. See for example this blog post Insights from Chiefs (Chief Nalubamba)

    ”And while I agree that the existence of parallel institutions, be they chiefs and local government, traditionnal and common law (mostly in inheritance), private and communal land-ownership are incodusive for growth, I have yet to read an argument explaining why simply eliminating chiefs or traditionnal law or communal land-ownership wouldn't work. After all the current problem is that governments and societies recognize both . “

    I am very glad that you have made this point because it goes to the heart of our different approaches to the development question.

    Central government elimination chiefs or traditional law is not an option for me because of the way I view development. Development for me is a “locally defined” concept. In other words, I cannot define what development means for you any more than you can define what it means for me. The same argument applies at the local or provincial levels. We need local people to define what development means for them, not to be imposed from the top. That means that true local development would reflect the local ideals.

    In other words, it is possible that understood correctly, the definition of local development may command different requirements on the type of local institutions that delivers that development. This is why I have argued that at the local level our nation needs to go through two steps:

    1. Each locality in Zambia needs to define what local development it wants to see and what it means by development.

    2. Each locality in Zambia then needs to ask itself, “What local institutions does it want to put in place to help deliver that development?”.

    Now it might be the case that for area X “development” to them may means a greater emphasis on cultural norms (less democratic openness) than economic growth. For area Y it could be the other way round (more democratic openness and growth, but erosion of culture e.g. the Swiss model of referendums) or area Z it could be both. We should then allow X, Y and Z to define their “local institutions” accordingly to deliver their goals.

    So I am willing to accept that in some cases, some would decide to abolish local chiefs and so forth. That is fine, but I just don’t accept that it should be imposed from above. What Government should not do is super impose its view of the world or its definition of development on local people. Local people must define what development means for them. In some cases, they will reject democratic openness and in some others they’ll embrace it.

    ”And the people are actually at the mercy of both chiefs and investors/colonists. Furthermore I don't exactly understand why you can argue that corruption in the Police or the government is not just a poverty issue and can't use the scepticism for chiefs. If they were less poor, they would just sell their people's land for more and the a bigger check would be in their (private) account. “

    I agree that local people suffer from both chiefs and investors. They especially suffer from chiefs in another way. Many rely on chiefs to preside over them in a very direct way. They go to chiefs for resolving conflicts, looking for land, sometimes for food and so forth. When chiefs have no access to provide those means, the poor suffer.

    I don’t get your point about corruption. Are you suggesting that chiefs are corrupt? In what way are they corrupt? The government did not accuse them of corruption, because traditional they have nothing to be corrupt about. What chiefs do is simply sell land to investors at the cheap because of poverty. The land belongs to the chiefs! Its like accusing me of corruption for selling my own television. In what way do you regard chiefs as corrupt?

    ”Rules do include rules about changing the rules ! That's why constitutions typically explain how they can be changed.”

    I really don’t get your point. Successions rules vary from tribe to tribe. Are you suggesting that government now pass a law to define succession rules? You may as well abolish tribes. But that is precisely your stated aim, and on that we are back where we started. Development is a locally defined concept. That means local people should define what they want and the trade offs their willing to accept. And that is where differ.

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  5. “biasness” is a pointless and inefficient accusation
    I didn't mean it as accusation. Like I said, I'm surprised at the absence of your usual healthy skepticism when this topic comes in.
    May be there are reasons why the usual rules of human behavior somehow change in this case, but you'd have to state them.
    My point is that there are ways of integrating chiefs in a coherent system of governance that creates a win-win situation. I never suggested that such an approach did not require a modification to the cultural status quo. There are broad questions about the nature of development that any particular local society aspire to that may determine how trade-offs are made.
    And my point is that while Burkean arguments about change based on existing (or past) institutions being more stable, profound, deep and successfull than radical breaks from the past make a lot of sense, it is dangerous to spend more time arguing about how modernity or devellopment needs to adjust to chiefs and culture rather than how cultural insitutions need to be modernized.
    I'm sure that at the end, our stances are close but I think it's important to make it clear that chieftancy will have to change.

    So I am willing to accept that in some cases, some would decide to abolish local chiefs and so forth. That is fine, but I just don’t accept that it should be imposed from above. What Government should not do is super impose its view of the world or its definition of development on local people.
    I can agree with that. But I should add that an automatic recognition of traditional law and the institution of chiefs by the government is imposing them from above.
    If local communities make the decision and if it legally can go each way, it's fine. But government recognition of chiefs without consultation with the "people" is as top-down as non-recognition.

    On the general topic of "locally defined" devellopment, there are several point to be made.
    First of all, no matter how much we may dislike our national constitutions and how they're applied, they do actually recognize some very important universal human rights. The big question about "local prerogative" on defining their institutions is what is to be done when traditional law goes against such rights. In short, if a local community wants slavery, gender discrimination, servitude, ethnic discrimination or repressed freedom of expression, is the local legitimacy more important than the respect of human rights ?
    That is why the legal system in Botswana works. Traditionnal law cannot contradict a constitution that recognize many basic rights. (legally, that was the problem with segregation and slavery in the United States. Both were legal and popular in the South and the Federal Government imposed emancipaton and civil rights in a top down manner). While local justice has numerous advantages (first of all, it's fast), it is limited.

    Then there's the political question about giving precedence to the "local": Why keep Zambia at all ? Why not break down the country into small localities so that everyone would be able to define everything ?
    Of course, those are absurd question but the role of the national government certainly needs to be defined.

    Finally, on locally defining "devellopment" too there are issues of contradiction with basic concepts. Without being as specific as defining precise setting that achieve them, there are broad elements that are viewed as pre-reqs to devellopment.. Rule of law, some level of equality (of rights and opportunity more than income), some level of freedom of association and of choice, a certain amount of privatization (i mean the ability for a person or a group of person to at least partially gain from the result of their productive actions) some level of government competence etc.. Are the locally defined concepts so valid that institutions breaching those are more desirable ?
    (imagine a local community decides that the chief has the right to redistribute land anytime for any reason without any process, and imagine that such chief, with the support of the majority of his subjects redistributes the most productive plots right before harvest. there would be a disincentive to maximize output and the general productivity/welfare would collapse.
    ( imagine that for religious reasons or whatever, the most productive activities are banned or imagine that women are prevented by the community to work outside the fields or go to school, there will be devellopment losses.)

    Of course, nothing stops communities from trying their definition of devellopment and the institutions that they think would help them achieve it and then learn from their success or mistakes and refine their concepts. But then, what's the role of the national government ? Should it support those communities while they experiment with system the government knows wouldn't work ? Should the communities who made good choices have to pay (in taxes) for the ones who didnt ?

    And of course, local capture is a real threat. At the national level already breweriesor refineries are able to convince everyone that devellopment entails a lack of competition for their products. At the local level ? I can't even imagine.

    So yeah, what safegaurd should there be ? How should they defined and by who ?

    I don’t get your point about corruption. Are you suggesting that chiefs are corrupt? In what way are they corrupt? The government did not accuse them of corruption, because traditional they have nothing to be corrupt about. What chiefs do is simply sell land to investors at the cheap because of poverty. The land belongs to the chiefs! Its like accusing me of corruption for selling my own television. In what way do you regard chiefs as corrupt?

    What do you mean by they have nothing to be corrupt about ? The same way a cop uses his function (the ability to write a ticket or to harass you) to generate private revenue throug rbibes or the same way a minister uses his function (the ability to not approve a project or the ability) to generate private revenue, or a judge, or a random clerck in the public service or the guy who installs your power or phone line, chiefs can use the powers of their function to generate private revenue.

    When you say that the land belongs to the chiefs, do you mean it belongs to them as individuals (before they became chiefs) or it belongs to their office ?
    If as private individuals, they sell land on the cheap, why would their plight deserve more attention than the plight of the millions of poor individuals who sell their propriety or their services on the cheap ?
    But if it belongs to the office, there's a problem. And the problem is do they gain privately from selling chieftancy's land or not ?

    Many rely on chiefs to preside over them in a very direct way. They go to chiefs for resolving conflicts, looking for land, sometimes for food and so forth. When chiefs have no access to provide those means, the poor suffer.
    Politicians, anyone that has a level of success, anyone who can hire people (in the private sector or the public sector) have the same pressures. Family member, friends, neighbourgs, ethnic kin comes to them asking them for land, food, jobs, favours, healp and so on..
    What's so special about the chiefs ?

    I really don’t get your point. Successions rules vary from tribe to tribe. Are you suggesting that government now pass a law to define succession rules? You may as well abolish tribes. But that is precisely your stated aim, and on that we are back where we started. Development is a locally defined concept. That means local people should define what they want and the trade offs their willing to accept. And that is where differ.

    That's not what I suggest.
    I suggest that if chiefs have to given an official role then each ethnic group or locality (i so hate the word "tribe") should sit down and actually write down some form of constitution.
    The role and responsibilities of chiefs should be clearly defined along with the succession, a process in the case of conflict between chiefs and their constituencies, a process to change those rules etc etc..
    I'm not arguing that the government should impose what the precise rules should be. I'm saying that the government should encourage (by making recognition conditional to it) the formalization of those institutions.
    Once again, it's not about having one form for organisation for everyone but instead about each different form of organisation being clearly defined.
    And yes, threatenning to de-register chiefs for having succession battles is not a solution to anything.

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  6. Cho,

    I don’t get your point about corruption. Are you suggesting that chiefs are corrupt? In what way are they corrupt? The government did not accuse them of corruption, because traditional they have nothing to be corrupt about. What chiefs do is simply sell land to investors at the cheap because of poverty. The land belongs to the chiefs! Its like accusing me of corruption for selling my own television. In what way do you regard chiefs as corrupt?

    I thought chiefs were custodians of the land, on behalf of the people. So how can they decide to sell the land? It isn't their personal property.

    Isn't the point of communally owned land that it belongs to the community? That 'ownership' of land translates into the chief's right to assign 'usufruct' or the ownership of the right to use the land, but not actual ownership of the land itself?

    Now if the law specifically stated that chiefs have the right to assign usufruct only, and 'foreign investors' understand that, that would be one thing, as long as there is a short time limit on that right.

    Which would of course deter FDI, the same way it deters local farmers from making investments in their land - through the fear of repossession.

    Development is a locally defined concept. That means local people should define what they want and the trade offs their willing to accept. And that is where differ.

    But defined how, and by whom? If people would vote for a local council leader, they would inherently be able to define development locally. I also think you're conflating the words culture and traditional leadership. I'm not saying they're separate, I am just saying that the use of the word culture when referring to traditional leadership is confusing the audience a little. :)

    On Chieftainshop and Local Government

    On the one hand, there is a need for the impartiality that a well functioning and corruption free secular government brings to civil law and society proceedings, like the allocation of land, business licenses, etc.

    At the same time, there is the inherent legitimacy and connectedness to the people that chiefs have.

    So the question is how to create an institution that balances out these two characteristics. Or even better, combines them.

    This is just a thinkpiece on how that could work out

    The way I understand it (and my understanding is of course extremely limited), is that anyone can stand for the office of (local) chief, and that it isn't necessarily an inherited position at all. So how is this so different from being a local council leader?

    If there was a way to educate all chiefs so in theory, any one of them could be effective local council leaders, then people could elect their chief, who would then be in a crucial position to help develop their locality, and have enough cultural sensitivity to maintain harmonious relationships with the community.

    Now that would be a very powerful office.

    * If there are 72 tribes and 350 local coucils, every tribe would on average have 5 chiefs, plus perhaps one official or traditional senior or paramount chief. This would also create a pool of both educated and experienced chiefs, people can choose from in case of succession.

    * Every ordinary chief/council leader would have deputy chiefs, to administer whatever area needs special attention - infrastructure, agriculture, etc., building local expertise into the system.

    * The function of a council leader/chief would be both directorial and managerial, depending on his/her level of expertise. Alternatively, chiefs could simply be directing the development of the area, and leave management to specialized deputies.

    On Management

    Famously, Tom Peters once remarked that the Catholic Church managed a global enterprise, with only 5 levels of management.

    Nationally, there should be a rationalization of the management structure of government that makes the organisation flatter. This in itself would decrease government waste and expenditures, allowing resources to be redirected toward service delivery (education, healthcare, policing, amenities, administration and infrastructure).

    Visualizing National Development

    Isn't there a computer program/game like SimCity, which would be able to represent national development in a visual manner? I think it could be very helpful to national planning, to show the cost, the esthetic impace, the need for dams and roads in a way that make them visually accessible to planners and ordinary people alike.

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  7. Random,

    You have raised a number of fundamental and very valid points which are probably easier to discuss as themes.

    1. Change Vs Stability

    I am all for progressive approach to issues related to culture and development, but such an approach has to be bottom up rather than top down. Those that feel change is necessary need to convince people on the bottom up that it is necessary so. We all agree that in an increasing globalised world, adapting to change is critical in all spheres. For example, I have argued that any drive to integrate chiefs in a broader institutional framework of governance would have to be accompanied by the drive for minimum standards of literacy and so forth.

    2. Local Vs National Prerogatives

    You have raised the important question of how to reconcile local ideas of development to a national whole. It’s a very important point that go beyond legal issues (e.g. customary/local law vs national law) because there’s also the broader related question of how local ideas of “development” are properly integrated to central government’s role of increasing national economic growth and narrowing income inequalities across regions.

    My view is that this is where the recognition of culture at the macro level become important. The reinforcing of the House of Chiefs as a credible second chamber links local preferences on culture to national ideals on high quality growth and other legalities. By accepting that locally, development also has a cultural perspective, our quest for national growth would not come at the expense of weakening our cultural institutions that some regard as part of the very notion of development. Rather development would come through a greater affirmation of our traditions and bringing them to the centre. If this logical premise is accepted then, Chiefs who are the very heart of our traditions must be recognized as having a primary role to play in our quest for higher national growth, and in defining that national growth.
    So the problem is not local vs national, but how society can move together as integrated whole towards common yet diverse purposes.

    3. Minimum Local Requirements?

    You pose the question of pre-reqs to development” e.g. rule of law, freedom of association etc. Does a move towards locally defined development do away with these?
    Of course in my model, there’s no such thing as pre-reqs because development is locally defined! But even accepting those pre-reqs, the question becomes more about procedures. Once we bring culture to the centre though a second chamber, such “minimum requirements” would be easier to adopt.

    4. Local Capture

    The specter of local capture hangs over any system that is decentralized. I acknowledge this as a real threat. Its probably even more threatening where the pay-offs for successful capture are high e.g. when the local chief runs everything. But there’s an even broader question here, just what is the “local will” of the people. How do we ensure that local preferences under a local chief are genuinely local preferences, and not just a totalitarian chief?
    I think the way to resolve this issue is through participatory budgeting. Basically local citizens would vote on spending priorities and so forth. This is transparent and puts the necessary safeguards in place.

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  8. First of all, I need to say that I'm total agrement with Mr K on his various concerns even though I may disagree on the solutions (thought the SimCity like game is a greta idea)
    We need to celebrate that, Brother.


    Cho, you make valid points and interesting points too.

    On stability vs progress

    You're right, change has to bottom up rather than top down. And yes, those that want change, and have ideas on what kind of change they want need to convince people.
    However what I still don't get is what makes chiefs and not the citizen or the representatives they choose more legitimate or more bottom-up.
    At least MPs and Local Councils have to face the people they represent !

    On local vs national prerogatives.

    I'm far from buying nationalist ideals or i'm suspicious of centralism. Therefore "national prerogatives" is a notion i strongly dislike.
    However, even if our countries are unperfect and my preference would go towards some sort of panafrican federal liberal-democracy (in the political science sense), what our countries in their existing form do have a modern and acceptable social contract.
    We do collectively choose our leaders and our policies (to an extend). We have clearly defined solidarities and responsibilities through citizenship. And we have unalienable rights.
    In that context, my question was about the effect giving priority to the local aspect would have on the social contract. Once again, would localities who made good choices have to support those who didn't ? And why should they ? Why should their be national solidarity if there are no national responsibilities and decision-making ?
    Of course what I'd argue for is not making all the decisions national but rather have a national framework within which local choices are made.

    I don't think legal issues are unimportant. In many ways, devellopment is about choosing the set of rules under which eveybody's welfare is maximized. Simple things like land tenure systems or freedom of entreprise or association are crucial.

    development also has a cultural perspective, our quest for national growth would not come at the expense of weakening our cultural institutions

    I challenge you to provide any example of a society that develloped without weaking some institutions. Just one !

    Chiefs who are the very heart of our traditions

    This is once against a sympathic view, one that is dangerously authoritarian too.
    I can think of a bunch of things that are at the very heart of our traditions, good or bad.. Familial solidarity, kinship (whether ethnic or more direct), respect for elders and their wisdom etc.. Chiefs come after those. Chiefs aren't anymore the heart of anything than presidents or kings are.

    In the same line, why isn't local preference on culture expressed by electing the right people to the national assembly ? Why empower the middle man by creating a strong house of the lords ?
    (if the issue is to represent "ethnicities" and not "localities", Ethiopia has a second chamber, The House of Federation where nationalities are represented. Members are not chiefs, lords or anything. just elected representatives of their ethnic groups)

    minimum requirements

    First of all, I don't think this should be limited to "pre-reqs for devellopment". I mentioned human rights and I will insist that those should included in the debate. Many things we value, our freedom from slavery or basic equality of rights are protected by constitutions that include them partly because UN recognition entails signing its Bill of Rights. Though I think slavery is unlikely to be widespread, there are two particular and important right that is very likely to be neglected by any chief-based local framework: gender equality and freedom from ethnic discrimination.
    Being zambian or congolese or tanzanian or south african guarantees us freedom of movement or association or from discrimination and repression everywhere in Zambia, Congo, Tanzania or South Africa. I certainly doubt that "devellopment" as defined by the majority of Lumba, Lubas or Zulus would extend those rights to toehr ethnic groups.
    Similarly, it's very likely that in rural areas, without the intervention of the national state, women would stripped from their rights. After all, the national state already fails at protecting them even in a context where tradition is not untoucheable.

    I don't see how giving proiminence to "culture" would make "universal values" easier to adopt. After all, bringing "culture" to the center implies that culture is the most important thing. Ask Dalits in India how they feel about a culture that justifies and supports their oppression being brought to the center ! Or the Xhoisan and the pygmees.

    So are discussing a plan that would do away with such requirements ? Are you putting culture, traditions, the monarchic institutions of chieftancy and local choice before human rights and the devellopment pre-reqs ?

    That's the kind of things that need to clearly defined.

    local capture

    What you propose is wishful thinking.
    If transparency, participation is so hard to enforce with elected officials, why would it happen with chiefs ?
    That's the same question I often ask Mr K when he proposes transfer to local governments.. What about local government or chiefs makes them less likely to be as corrupt, self-interested, aloof, than national governments ?

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  9. local capture

    What you propose is wishful thinking.
    If transparency, participation is so hard to enforce with elected officials, why would it happen with chiefs ?
    That's the same question I often ask Mr K when he proposes transfer to local governments.. What about local government or chiefs makes them less likely to be as corrupt, self-interested, aloof, than national governments ?


    In themselves, nothing. Lack of corruption comes from accountability and transparancy, as well a good esprit de corps among employees. When people take pride in their work, they have much less tolerance for corruption. When they make a living wage, there is no need to make up for what they don't receive in pay.

    However, the actual purpose of government, the delivery of services by the state, is much better served on a local level, than from a ministry in the far away capital.

    Also, a lot of time and money can be saved by having fewer minor regulations.

    However, even if our countries are unperfect and my preference would go towards some sort of panafrican federal liberal-democracy (in the political science sense), what our countries in their existing form do have a modern and acceptable social contract.

    I think my model could be applied across the continent. It would take tribalism and regionalism out of national politics by making councils much smaller than tribes and regions, it would redistribute wealth to every citizen, no matter where in the country they recided. In doing so, it would make the present multi-national states obsolete, paving the way for actual integration.

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  10. MrK,

    ”I thought chiefs were custodians of the land, on behalf of the people. So how can they decide to sell the land? It isn't their personal property. “

    This varies from tribe to tribe. In some cultures all land belongs to the chief. In others land belongs to the chief. But in most cases, we tended to see both i.e. the chief has his own land for his family, and the rest is rotated among households as the chief decides.

    ”But defined how, and by whom? If people would vote for a local council leader, they would inherently be able to define development locally. “

    I have already addressed this issue in the last post to Random. Your questions combine two different issues. One is what is a locality? The second is how decisions are made. The first question involves some level of national definition and the second is entirely a local issue in my definition of development. However, I have tentatively suggested that there are several ways of ensuring that local is genuinely local e.g. through integrating participatory budgeting within local institutions, as defined by the local people.

    ”So the question is how to create an institution that balances out these two characteristics. Or even better, combines them.”

    We agree on “the question”, not the “why it is being asked”, hence we definitely bound to disagree on the “answer”. Simply put, we are coming at from different angles. My approach is to define the goal (locally defined development) and then work backwards to assess what can get us there. You start from a vision of what you want local areas to look like (like the IMF and World Bank) and then ask how we get those things. I don’t think my approach is superior, but it is important to be clear on why we arrive at different conclusions.

    ”The way I understand it (and my understanding is of course extremely limited), is that anyone can stand for the office of (local) chief, and that it isn't necessarily an inherited position at all. So how is this so different from being a local council leader?”

    An elected chief? Lol!!
    Not in Luapula province where I come from.

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  11. Random,

    I have to note that whilst I think the model I have proposed is daring and bold, I don’t necessarily think it is perfect. I think there are a lot of areas that requires further thought, and this discussion certainly helps to think them through. Where I think the model improves on current approaches to African development is that it defines the goal and works backwards. It is also organic and far from being static it grows as local priorities change. For example we can image that within a nation like Zambia urban areas would not have chiefs, but chose other systems as so forth. It’s also wholly integrated within the national whole. Anyway, enough of the drumbeat, back to your specifics:

    ”I still don't get is what makes chiefs and not the citizen or the representatives they choose more legitimate or more bottom-up.”

    Its not the question of chiefs being more bottom-up, rather it is the recognition that development comes through allowing people determine their own view of development and the local institutions they desire to bring that about. Central government’s role therefore is to support such a drive to enable people to be the best they can be, but crucially, who they want to be. As I said, if local people want to get rid of chiefs that’s perfectly acceptable within my model. So rather than restrictive, my model is liberating!

    ”I challenge you to provide any example of a society that developed without weakening some institutions. “

    I think you interpreted my statement too narrowly. No where did I suggest that there’s no strength in adapting to change. Quite the opposite, when I say that our current approach weakens institutions, I am simply recognising the fact that it is inefficient, in so far as it has erected two parallel systems which are in constant frictions. What we should be doing is working through existing institutions, if the local people decide, and then grafting new ideas on that. Continuous local people driven change, not imposed from above.

    ”This is once against a sympathic view, one that is dangerously authoritarian too. “

    That is just colourful language. I am sure you get the point I was making!

    ”In the same line, why isn't local preference on culture expressed by electing the right people to the national assembly ? Why empower the middle man by creating a strong house of the lords ?

    Again, I am not saying that alternative models cannot work. I am simply saying the suggested approach is consistent with my view of development. It’s quite possible what you suggest can work, depending on your view of development.
    ”Though I think slavery is unlikely to be widespread, there are two particular and important right that is very likely to be neglected by any chief-based local framework: gender equality and freedom from ethnic discrimination.”

    I think we can all that the framework as proposed which links the localities to a national whole through the second chamber eliminates your main concern. If the national state decides that gender and equality needs to be within the minimum threshold, then it can be incorporated. There’s no problem there.

    ”I don't see how giving prominence to "culture" would make "universal values" easier to adopt. After all, bringing "culture" to the centre implies that culture is the most important thing.”

    Your first point really is subjective. So no comment.
    Your second point is an extreme interpretation of what is being proposed. Brining it to the centre is simply recognising that culture is a part of us. It is what defines us. But remember culture is constantly changing, so it is not as constraining as you suggest.

    ”Are you putting culture, traditions, the monarchic institutions of chieftancy and local choice before human rights and the development pre-reqs ? That's the kind of things that need to clearly defined. ”

    I agree that there are things that need careful definition.
    I see no conflict because the national state working with Chiefs would define the “pre-eminence” (for lack of better phrase) of basic human rights.

    ”What you propose is wishful thinking. If transparency, participation is so hard to enforce with elected officials, why would it happen with chiefs ?
    That's the same question I often ask Mr K when he proposes transfer to local governments.. What about local government or chiefs makes them less likely to be as corrupt, self-interested, aloof, than national governments ?”


    This is actually more complicated that you suggest.
    Local chiefdoms already have other mechanisms for control and so forth.

    But I do agree that the question of local control mechanisms is an area for further thought. I think Participatory Budgeting would work. But it may require other mechanisms e.g. development boards that includes the local chief but his spending power is more diluted. I am giving this one further thought….its work in progress :)

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  12. Mr K,

    However, the actual purpose of government, the delivery of services by the state, is much better served on a local level, than from a ministry in the far away capital.

    That is true. As long as you don't argue that it would reduce corruption or save money, we're fine.

    it would redistribute wealth to every citizen, no matter where in the country they recided

    But that taps rights inside my other never-answered question: the sharing formula. Those 50% of the central government revenue, how will they be redistributed ?
    (yes, there's actually no perfect formula. Someone will be unhappy about it)

    Cho,
    It is also organic and far from being static it grows as local priorities change. For example we can image that within a nation like Zambia urban areas would not have chiefs, but chose other systems as so forth.

    2 questions: Will urban areas or other chief-less regions have representation in your strong House of Chiefs ? And how is a system that creates a House of Chiefs and gives strong powers (which I assume, include the right to block reforms against itself) is anything but static ?

    Its not the question of chiefs being more bottom-up, rather it is the recognition that development comes through allowing people determine their own view of development and the local institutions they desire to bring that about.

    But it is about the chiefs. Understand that you only said that the option of getting rid of the chiefs exists in your model after I actually questioned the top-down reinforcement of the chiefs' prerogatives it implies. And somehow you keep insisting on that part of the whole thing (with insisting on having a strong house of chiefs).

    I think you interpreted my statement too narrowly.
    What's to narrowly interpret about " our quest for national growth would not come at the expense of weakening our cultural institutions " ? I understand and agree with what you say about people being free to choose but this kind of statement is exactly why I don't buy for a second that you're interested in the alternative choices. So once again, can you think of any place where devellopment occured without weaking some cultural institutions ?

    That is just colourful language. I am sure you get the point I was making!
    No, Cho, I mean it. And I do not get the point you're trying to make ?
    How are chiefs at the heart of our traditions ? How is it different from arguing that Stalin and Mao are at the heart of proletarian revolution or that Louis XV was at the heart of french traditions or that Mobutu was at the heart of Zaire ?
    Plus most unbiased historians would tell you that the chiefs are to a varying extend the creation of the slave trade or colonialism anyway.

    I am simply saying the suggested approach is consistent with my view of development. It’s quite possible what you suggest can work, depending on your view of development.
    So once again, is your view of devellopment to empower local people to to empower the chiefs ?
    Because I fail to see how my suggestion that local preference whether it aligned with chiefs or not can be perfectly be expressed within elected parliamentary and local government institutions is a different view of devellopment that doesn't acknowledge local preference.
    I think we can all that the framework as proposed which links the localities to a national whole through the second chamber eliminates your main concern.
    Not necessarily. I mean, yeah, one can think the diversity of the second chamber would be a shield from ethnic discrimination but an alliance of bigots is clearly possible. Think about how black and white nationalists would probably ally to reprevent interracial marriage or interracial cooperation. A House of Chiefs could spend its time protecting their turf.
    If the national state decides that gender and equality needs to be within the minimum threshold, then it can be incorporated. There’s no problem there.

    The problem is that you say "if" and "can be". And I'll assume you propose that the House of Chief has a say in that decision ?
    I mean, why not stating it up front in your proposal ? Or why not say "you make a good point, human rights requirements should be incorporated" ?

    Furthermore, remember I raised this in response to you saying that your view of devellopment includes unrestricted local preference. Are Human Rights a restriction ?
    Your first point really is subjective.
    How is it subjective ? (and i don't see how this statement is different from the statement below)
    Your second point is an extreme interpretation of what is being proposed. Brining it to the centre is simply recognising that culture is a part of us. It is what defines us. But remember culture is constantly changing, so it is not as constraining as you suggest.

    It's not an extreme interpretation, it's a worst-case scenario.
    And yes, I believe that proposals that fails to consider worst-case scenarios tend to open huge avenue for those to happen.
    I see no conflict because the national state working with Chiefs would define the “pre-eminence” (for lack of better phrase) of basic human rights.

    Ok, once again, my argument is not about what chiefs would do. It's about empowering them to oppose basic human rights by using "culture" as an excuse and/or by simply voting against them in a strong House of Chiefs.
    Most countries enforce separation of state and church not because they think the pope or a pastor would actually order the killing of atheists or practitionners of a different religion in 2008 but because they don't want said pope or pastor to have the RIGHT to do so, even theorical.
    And athesit and religious minorities are rightfully thankful for that.
    Local chiefdoms already have other mechanisms for control and so forth.
    Hopefully those will survive the great empowerment of chiefs !
    (ok, now I'm being falacious).


    In general, you have to understand that every objection that I raise is really about the possibilities opened here. I'm pretty sure there's no danger of your proposal to come to fruition as it is. You're still working on it after all. But in any case, I believe initial statements are important. Had the American Constitution been vague about presidential terms, they would have that experienced dictatorship a long time ago. Any overlooked weakness, anytime an office or a policy is defined with the good case scenario in mind, abuse will happen. Once again, I have the feeling that when you think of the institution of chieftancy you have your cousin mind. No matter how good of a person he is, you have to think about what would happen if the extreme cliché of the parasitic, bigotted, exploitative and self-interest chief is empowered.

    as a side note:
    An elected chief? Lol!! 
Not in Luapula province where I come from.

    ^^^that doesn't help your case a single bit.

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  13. WAIT !

    One is what is a locality? The second is how decisions are made. The first question involves some level of national definition and the second is entirely a local issue in my definition of development.

    Are you actually saying that defining how decisions are made locally should be defined locally ?
    That's one confusing statement. Just to make clear, how do you propose the decision about the decision-making to be made ? Most precisely who would make that decision ? chiefs ? elders ? men ? only indigenous inhabitants or that area ? everyone ? With simple majority ? qualified majority ? consensus ?

    And on the first point, mr K brings up a point that's not answered either. Typically traditional authorities are ethnically defined. They claim to represent an ethnic group of people or a particular sub-groups defined through kinship. Would migrants be included under their authority ? Would inhabitants of a locality from a different ethnic origin have a voice ? Would it be ok to exclude them ?

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  14. "That is true. As long as you don't argue that it would reduce corruption or save money, we're fine." Random

    I think you will find that empirical and theoretical evidence on the relationship between fiscal decentralisation and corruption is mixed. Having reviewed the material (may be I should do I blog on this), personally I put it at 80% - 20% in favour of decentralisation reducing corruption. Therefore MrK has some weight behind his hypothesis. The question is not whether decentralisation could (not 'will') reduce corruption, a lot of literature shows it can, but on whether MrK's proposal increases the chances of doing so. You have not demonstrated thus far that some features about his model makes that unlikely or even increases the scope of corruption. Your critique has been based on a generic assessment of decentralisation per se. Let us be more specific in our critique.

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  15. Saying that the evidence is mixed is an euphemism for an unresolved controversy with wide variations from study to study.. I don't know how you get the 80-20 figure. Do you mean quantity ? Does that include the numerous papers by second-rate researchers written when "decentralization" was "in style" (i'm not being silly, policy trends in international orgs tend to influence the production, at least quantatively)?

    From my (unprofessional) understanding, there is no definitive proof that decentralization increases or reduces corruption per se. All the evidence either way tends to be too influenced by (legal, sociological, political, economic) context and varies depending on the way corruption is measured.

    So, while a lot of litterature shows that decentralization "can" reduce corruption, a lot also shows that it can increase it or simply make it change in nature.

    My critique has been that there's no feature in the model that would significantly reduce corruption. As the proposed change is just a fiscal transfer, with no major structural change is the incentive structure or the decision-making, I don't see how I'm basing anything on a generic assessment of decentralization.

    More specific ? Take infrastructure, roads precisely. We know that the attribution of those contracts, anywhere, tends to involve all sorts of corrupt behavior. As the infrastructure budget and the decision-making will be taken away from the central government to local ones, the potential for bribery, self-contracting, inflated contracts will not go away. And since nothing is said about the attribution process by local governments, I do believe that the corruption will simply to displaced.
    Interestingly Mr K mentions transparency, but seeing how hard it has been for informed activists to learn anything about the content of DAs or get more transparency in the national government in general, I wonder how easy it would be to get disclosure when it's local bosses who are in charge.

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  16. How extensive this review of litterature on the topic is ?

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  17. " Will urban areas or other chief-less regions have representation in your strong House of Chiefs ? "

    Yes to some extent because in Zambia chiefs exist across the regional spectrum.

    " And how is a system that creates a House of Chiefs and gives strong powers (which I assume, include the right to block reforms against itself) is anything but static ? "

    There's no inevitable conflict between powers of a second house, with its ability to evolve with society.

    "So once again, can you think of any place where development occured without weakening some cultural institutions ?"

    We are going round in circles on this one. I refer to my last response.

    "Plus most unbiased historians would tell you that the chiefs are to a varying extend the creation of the slave trade or colonialism anyway."

    Being a keen reader of Zambian history, I would be interested to have that discussion with them. The forces of slavery and colonialism clearly impacted on these institutions but "creating" them that suggests they never existed before these forces. Its simply not the case.

    "So once again, is your view of devellopment to empower local people to to empower the chiefs ?"

    As I said local empowerment. The drive is to deliver development on a personal level.

    "Because I fail to see how my suggestion that local preference whether it aligned with chiefs or not can be perfectly be expressed within elected parliamentary and local government institutions is a different view of devellopment that doesn't acknowledge local preference.

    I have not ruled out that other models can work (though I don't endorse your approach for obvious reasons e.g. the inability of voting systems to fully reflect individual preferences - public economics 101, the inefficiencies within parallel systems, and so forth) . I simply noted that my proposed model is 'goal driven' and also aims to eliminate the inefficiencies within the existing parallel system.

    "I mean, yeah, one can think the diversity of the second chamber would be a shield from ethnic discrimination but an alliance of bigots is clearly possible. Think about how black and white nationalists would probably ally to reprevent interracial marriage or interracial cooperation. A House of Chiefs could spend its time protecting their turf."

    These problems are common in any chamber.

    "I mean, why not stating it up front in your proposal ? Or why not say "you make a good point, human rights requirements should be incorporated" ?"

    You are making a moral case for including these things. Remember the so called "pre-reqs" are not really "pre-reqs" at all, but are simply conventional understanding of what is morally acceptable. There are many other things I could argue, based on my world view, that should be minimum e.g. protection of the unborn. It is up to society either through Constitution or working through the House of Chiefs and House of Parliament to define these "minimums".

    "It's not an extreme interpretation, it's a worst-case scenario."

    I meant intepretation of my language as opposed to the effects of what is being substantially proposed. So I accept that worst case scenarios are extremely important.

    "I'm pretty sure there's no danger of your proposal to come to fruition as it is. You're still working on it after all.."

    Yes work in progress….progress being the operative word…Of course you are right is to stir this sort of discussion, although I think the idea of removing certain inefficiencies in the system may have some traction. The overiding aim is forward and asking what Zambia's future challenges are….unchained by conventional thinking. There's no doubt to my mind that increasing the challenge will be how to ensure that economic growth is adequately realigned with a personal view of development. This discussion therefore is about how appropriate institutions that might deliver that.

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  18. I have not read that one I actually. But of papers I have read, includes this useful summary from 2004 Corruption and Decentralisation

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  19. Yes to some extent because in Zambia chiefs exist across the regional spectrum.

    This is a circular answer. Regions that choose to get rid of chiefs, will they be represented in the House of Chiefs ?

    You can't answer that by saying that everybody wants chiefs. which is a normative statement.

    There's no inevitable conflict between powers of a second house, with its ability to evolve with society.

    Oh come on ! The intentions between having a upper house, especially one that includes chiefs, lords, eminent personalities or whatever is to provide stability. That's actually why they're desirable ! Because they're slower to change than lower houses.
    That conflict is inevitable. The argument is about how deep the conflict will be.

    Being a keen reader of Zambian history, I would be interested to have that discussion with them. The forces of slavery and colonialism clearly impacted on these institutions but "creating" them that suggests they never existed before these forces. Its simply not the case.

    I forgot to say "chiefs as we know them". So yeah, for the most part they were pre-existing institutions that were renforced.
    However, didn't Zambia have acephalic societies ? Didn't the British create chiefs in those ?
    (seeing your surprise at Mr K's mention of elected chiefs, sort of makes me doubt the beginning of your statement. sort of)

    I have not ruled out that other models can work (though I don't endorse your approach for obvious reasons e.g. the inability of voting systems to fully reflect individual preferences - public economics 101, the inefficiencies within parallel systems, and so forth) . I simply noted that my proposed model is 'goal driven' and also aims to eliminate the inefficiencies within the existing parallel system.

    So wait. You're suggesting that to resolve the inability of voting system to PERFECTLY reflect individual preference, one should give less room to voters' preference ?

    I mean, I don't have a prefered approach. I'm just wondering about the inconsistencies between the stated aim of your model and its implications.

    You are making a moral case for including these things. Remember the so called "pre-reqs" are not really "pre-reqs" at all, but are simply conventional understanding of what is morally acceptable. There are many other things I could argue, based on my world view, that should be minimum e.g. protection of the unborn. It is up to society either through Constitution or working through the House of Chiefs and House of Parliament to define these "minimums".

    Human Rights are simply conventional understandings of what is morally acceptable ? Hmmm..

    In any case, if such decisions are to be made, wouldn't it be better if they were made with the larger consensus possible in the most representative body possible ? In short, it's as appropriate to give traditionalst chiefs the power to judge traditions as it's appropriate to give churches the power to legislate on religiously sensitive topic or the whites-only insitutions to discuss racial inclusion and justice.



    The overiding aim is forward and asking what Zambia's future challenges are….unchained by conventional thinking.

    I'm withholding my sarcastic comment on your use of the words "unchain" and "conventional thinking".

    There's no doubt to my mind that increasing the challenge will be how to ensure that economic growth is adequately realigned with a personal view of development. This discussion therefore is about how appropriate institutions that might deliver that.

    Yeah but as I said earlier there are inconsistence between your stated goals and your proposed solutions.
    You may have to explain the link between empowering chiefs and empowering communities. You can't just assume chiefs reflect the will of their subjects.

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  20. I read that summary too.
    And it suggest the same state of research as the other one: somewhere between "it's hard know" and "it depends (on a long list)"

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  21. Random,

    "Saying that the evidence is mixed is an euphemism for an unresolved controversy with wide variations from study to study.. I don't know how you get the 80-20 figure. Do you mean quantity ? Does that include the numerous papers by second-rate researchers written when "decentralization" was "in style" (i'm not being silly, policy trends in international orgs tend to influence the production, at least quantatively)?"

    lol! Both quantity and quality. I think in general with minimum adjustments decentralisation can work. In general, I think the problems with decentralisation is not really that it encourages corruption, but rather it can lead to other sub-optimal outcomes - just ask the Spanish companies who have found that the red tape across different juridictions have made it difficult for them to operate effectively.

    "My critique has been that there's no feature in the model that would significantly reduce corruption. As the proposed change is just a fiscal transfer, with no major structural change is the incentive structure or the decision-making, I don't see how I'm basing anything on a generic assessment of decentralization."

    But you have no reason to believe that it wouldn't either? You have not proved the negative :)

    "Regions that choose to get rid of chiefs, will they be represented in the House of Chiefs ?"

    I think practice you'll find that Chiefs become "irrelevant" in urban areas as opposed to being eliminated. My wife for example is from what I describe as a fairly "urban tribe", but even they also have a Chief. So I think the extreme is probably unlikely. The House of Chiefs will have chiefs across the country as it is currently constituted. Remember. We are not talking about a new body. Its already there. We are simply talking about strengthening it. At the moment it is actually a waste of resources. It does nothing. So either get rid of it, or make it more meaning within a coherent national framework that reinforces local decision making.

    "However, didn't Zambia have acephalic societies ? Didn't the British create chiefs in those ?"

    What the British did was combine existing Chiefdoms and designated a paramount Chief. So they altered the rankings of Chief to some extent but not introduce new chiefs were non existed. I appreaciate the situation may be different in other African societies.

    "So wait. You're suggesting that to resolve the inability of voting system to PERFECTLY reflect individual preference, one should give less room to voters' preference ?"

    No! I was simply saying that if I stepped outside my model for a minute and assessed others, I see flaws there as well.

    "I mean, I don't have a prefered approach. I'm just wondering about the inconsistencies between the stated aim of your model and its implications."

    There's no inconsistencies, but I think I have found your worry. I agree that at face value the model may seem not fully reflect individual preferences, but that assumes that the individual does not value how those preferences are revealed. My point is that individuals value how these decisions are made.

    "Human Rights are simply conventional understandings of what is morally acceptable ? Hmmm..

    Of course, personally I see moral issues more objectively. What we think of as human rights are really a basic standard set by the Creator. I made that point purely to make you understand at the individual level, we all hold different ideals e.g. the post modernist might say, there's no such as moral law.

    "In any case, if such decisions are to be made, wouldn't it be better if they were made with the larger consensus possible in the most representative body possible? In short, it's as appropriate to give traditionalst chiefs the power to judge traditions as it's appropriate to give churches the power to legislate on religiously sensitive topic or the whites-only insitutions to discuss racial inclusion and justice."

    Again, I am concerned not just by "choices made by individuals within a given institutional setting" but also the value they may place on the procedure for making those decisions. Its likely that some may value highly using a local traditional framework for revealing their choices. [Most economists miss the procedural question on choice]

    "I'm withholding my sarcastic comment on your use of the words "unchain" and "conventional thinking"."

    There'a an Ghanaian chap who has written that book on Africa - unchained or is it unshackling…? Anyway, I have never read it, never will…..I used it to evoke memories of misguided borrowed ideas, by current would-be African intellectuals!

    "Yeah but as I said earlier there are inconsistence between your stated goals and your proposed solutions.
    You may have to explain the link between empowering chiefs and empowering communities. You can't just assume chiefs reflect the will of their subjects."


    I hope its more clear now.

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  22. I think in general with minimum adjustments decentralisation can work.

    Of course ! That's why it's important to talk about the adjustements.


    In general, I think the problems with decentralisation is not really that it encourages corruption, but rather it can lead to other sub-optimal outcomes

    My point was that decentralisation alone neither encourages nor discourages corruption. Structural changes in the decision-making process do.

    And I agree on the sub-optimal outcomes. I'll add that in infrastructure there are serious coordination issues with decentralized decision-making. (which can be resolve by having a coordinating structure of course)

    But you have no reason to believe that it wouldn't either? You have not proved the negative :)


    Once again, my point was that a transfer alone of responsibilities alone won't change much on the quantity of corruption. It may change its nature or the receiving players but it's not sure-fire solution.

    But you have no reason to believe that it wouldn't either? You have not proved the negative :)

    I think practice you'll find that Chiefs become "irrelevant" in urban areas as opposed to being eliminated. My wife for example is from what I describe as a fairly "urban tribe", but even they also have a Chief. So I think the extreme is probably unlikely.

    Hmmm.. Strengthening irrelevant institutions is not really representing the will of the people, is it ?

    We are not talking about a new body. Its already there. We are simply talking about strengthening it. At the moment it is actually a waste of resources. It does nothing. So either get rid of it, or make it more meaning within a coherent national framework that reinforces local decision making.

    Yup it does nothing. However, you still have to prove that strengthenning it reinforces local decision making.
    And let me take an example:
    Northern Nigeria used to have a strong House of Chiefs and Sultans. Eventually, it disappear or was stripped of its powers (i don't remember).
    However, when that happened, the chiefs didn't loose all powers. In the elected lower house, between the chiefs who got elected themselves and the candidates who owe their election to the chiefs, the chief controll something like 70% of the seats. Liberals, socialists, modernists hold 30%.
    The thing is in the former house of chiefs, the "chiefs party" controlled almost 100% of the seats (almost because there are anti-chiefs chiefs). Even if it eventually happened that modernists from the left and the right were a minority anyway, their exclusion in the original house strongly biased the decision-making towards traditionalism. A place like Kano was represented by a traditionalist chief (he was a moderate though) while it was a strong leftist stronghold.
    (and honestly, i believe that with proportional representation and more enforcement of free elections, the traditionalists would have even less seats, 50% at most).

    What the British did was combine existing Chiefdoms and designated a paramount Chief. So they altered the rankings of Chief to some extent but not introduce new chiefs were non existed.
    But here you're assuming the chiefdoms that got combined really had chiefs as we know them.
    Elder councils, head of lineage, village patriarch got transformed into powerful chiefs.

    I was simply saying that if I stepped outside my model for a minute and assessed others, I see flaws there as well.
    everything is flawed. it's about ranking the flaws.
    Remember how our dictators saw flaws in democracies but never explained why dictatorship were superior ?

    There's no inconsistencies, but I think I have found your worry. I agree that at face value the model may seem not fully reflect individual preferences, but that assumes that the individual does not value how those preferences are revealed. My point is that individuals value how these decisions are made.
    the point is that no one knows what individuals value until they can express their preferences. Saying they do or they don't is a subjective assessment. Most likely, the truth is that it "varies" (on the individual, on the decision, on the groups).
    My worry is that you start with the premise that chiefs' preference reflact their subject's. And then decide that empowering chiefs empowers their subjects.
    Of course, personally I see moral issues more objectively. What we think of as human rights are really a basic standard set by the Creator. I made that point purely to make you understand at the individual level, we all hold different ideals

    Yet, basic human rights, which really protect individuals from others' preference are not that relative.. We may all hold different ideals, but somehow it would be good to recognize that some individual "ideals" inherently imply the denial of others' ideal.
    Its likely that some may value highly using a local traditional framework for revealing their choices. [Most economists miss the procedural question on choice]
    sure. but once again, how do we know what some may value without a system that allows them to express what they value ?

    to take an example, there's a difference between voluntary and mandatory traditional justice. the fact that many individuals voluntary decide to present their conflicts to their chief (or imam or rabbi) for arbitrage doesn't mean that it should be mandated for everyone (and yes, "official" justice can be mandated because those laws are at least in theory the expression of the people's will through representative structures).

    There'a an Ghanaian chap who has written that book on Africa - unchained or is it unshackling…? Anyway, I have never read it, never will…..I used it to evoke memories of misguided borrowed ideas, by current would-be African intellectuals!
    George Ayittey. "Africa Unchained"
    As you may know, I don't like him either.
    However, you'd find out that in this current debate, his opinion would be much closer to yours. He holds the same assumptions on traditional institutions being "bottom-up". and he keeps propising more integration of traditional rulers in the decision-making.
    So borrowed ideas, I don't know. There's that old and recurent tendency all of us have to somehow put value on tradition and use it to justify our ideas (think about "African Socialism"). I think I'll call it "colonial post-partum syndrome". lol.


    I hope its more clear now.
    A bit but your initial assumption is still problematic.

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  23. Random,

    It strikes me that other than areas where the meaning is being lost in translation at both our ends there remains one key question to be relating to choice.

    Your concerns, if I undestand them correctly, is that althoug you accept that "procedural preference" is a critical part of overall revealed preference (atleast in my model it is central) you still have some concerns because I seem to automatically assume individuals have an a-priori preference for traditional chiefs - a sort of "procedural biasness" of its own!

    This is certainly evidence from your statements like:

    "the point is that no one knows what individuals value until they can express their preferences"

    "sure. but once again, how do we know what some may value without a system that allows them to express what they value ?"


    I am convinced that these questions, although legitimate, arise from my incomplete answers on how the framework could be adopted.

    I thought I had already dealt with that issue by saying that people will decide for themselves whether to adopt the framework I propose or not, but I think that leaves room for doubt. So let me be explicit. Each local area can decide to vote on the proposed model to see whether they want to adopt it. I have said this so many times - the framework won't be forced, but for avoidance of doubt, each INDIVIDUAL in each LOCAL AREA will have a FREE VOTE on whether to adopt the proposed model. Of course people vote for other frameworks of decision making all that time (although less so in Africa), but by my introduction of this framework, I am widening both the procedural and subsquent choice sets. Procedural choices come from the fact that they would now have a credible alternative that would reflect the value they place on how decisions are made. Subquent choices are widened also because my framework may have different implications for subsquent choices compared to other frameworks.

    I think we can rest the philosophical question whether by offering a free vote first time, I am imposing some more apriori procedural biasness. The issue then becomes circular, because then no framework can ever be adopted!

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  24. ok, fine.

    This was clear on the issue of governance at least. (although such bidding votes need either a qualified majority or possibility of later reversal but that's another topic).

    I don't know how strengthening the House of Chiefs fit into that though.

    But at least you acknowledge my concerns.

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  25. Strengthening the house of chiefs is critical. Remember this comes from your / MrK's earlier concern on how we reconcile local vision to the national whole.

    If everyone had a different vision about development it may be difficult to integrate these into a coherent and wholistic approach to the nation state.

    One approach might be to define "local minimums" through a free vote for all across the piece...that is basically enshrined in a constitution...another proposal would be to strengthen the second chamber...to integrate local institutions better into the national whole..

    What we are grappling here is the elusive philosophical question of how to find unity among diversity.

    But I agree, there are other options that could move us there, with less rigidity. The minimum requirements and a smaller central government might deliver that probably. These options require further investigation.

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  26. One approach might be to define "local minimums" through a free vote for all across the piece...that is basically enshrined in a constitution...another proposal would be to strengthen the second chamber...to integrate local institutions better into the national whole..

    But the only thing strengthening the second chamber achieves is to give more power to certain individual/interest groups or a louder voice to a particular vision.

    It's not a Senate, it's a House of Chiefs.

    What we are grappling here is the elusive philosophical question of how to find unity among diversity.

    No. It's an issue of power. And of finding a reasonable balance between individuals, groups and nation.
    And that is far from being philosophical. There is a reason why you're able to peacefully live in the UK.

    But I agree, there are other options that could move us there, with less rigidity. The minimum requirements and a smaller central government might deliver that probably. These options require further investigation.

    Yeah something like that would be better. Letting a representative (so no, not a house of chiefs) central government define a general framework within which local preferences express themselves.

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  27. Of course the question of power is relevant, but really any development model has to grapple with the question of how we ensure that development at the individual level is suitably integrated with the national machinery of government.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Random,

    So borrowed ideas, I don't know. There's that old and recurent tendency all of us have to somehow put value on tradition and use it to justify our ideas (think about "African Socialism"). I think I'll call it "colonial post-partum syndrome". lol.

    If you look at Asia, most cultures there are syncratic - they borrowed religions and traditions from all around the region. The most influential in this cultural diffusion have been India and China.

    Buddhism came from India, was adopted by China as Charn Buddhism, which in turn made it to Japan as Zen Buddhism. All of which have the imprints of their own cultures and contexts.

    In Indonesia, the successive waves of invaders and traders left behind Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Confusianism and Christianity, all of which were adopted and turned into something uniquely Indonesian.

    It is all about who is there to integrate new ideas into the existing culture.

    What we are grappling here is the elusive philosophical question of how to find unity among diversity.

    No. It's an issue of power. And of finding a reasonable balance between individuals, groups and nation. And that is far from being philosophical. There is a reason why you're able to peacefully live in the UK.

    Random, just a general remark. If you make your statements less abstract, and give examples of what you are talking about, that would help the discussion and prevent the kind of cross-purpose discussions. As they say, a picture says more than a thousand words.

    Cho,

    One approach might be to define "local minimums" through a free vote for all across the piece...that is basically enshrined in a constitution...another proposal would be to strengthen the second chamber...to integrate local institutions better into the national whole..

    Chiefs could be put in charge of enforcing a 'Bill Of Rights', which would spell out every citizen's basic human and civil rights, at risks of the chief losing his/her position, fines or even imprisonment.

    If you're reading Diamonds, Gold and War: The Making Of South Africa, also check out "Rhodes: Race for Africa" by Antony Thomas. It is the most unfawning biography I have read so far.

    ReplyDelete
  29. No. It's an issue of power. And of finding a reasonable balance between individuals, groups and nation.

    Random, just a general remark. If you make your statements less abstract, and give examples of what you are talking about, that would help the discussion and prevent the kind of cross-purpose discussions.


    After I wrote I don't know many comments discussing the possibility of abuse, corruption, capture, repression by chiefs, you think me saying "it's about power and balance" is abstract ?
    The examples are all there.

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  30. Random,

    This discussion has been immensely helpful. I think where I have got to is that the model I have in mind is certainly viable. At the local level its quiet clear to my mind how it can work, but on how it is integrated at the national level, legitimate questions remain. A stronger second chamber certainly has advantages and disadvantages, but may be sub-options exists on that, including simply having an advisory body that directly reports to parliament.

    I now have a new post that is relevant to this dicussion. You can read it here
    .

    I hope to have a revised short paper that brings all together.

    MrK,

    I like your idea of "bill of rights" but certainly not the idea of imprisonment :)

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  31. Chiefs could be put in charge of enforcing a 'Bill Of Rights', which would spell out every citizen's basic human and civil rights, at risks of the chief losing his/her position, fines or even imprisonment.

    And who checks if the chiefs are enforcing the bill of rights ? how ? who enforces the enforcement ?

    Cho,

    I saw the other post. I'll comment on it soon.

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  32. Cho,

    I was thinking about Henry Kyambalesa's focus on Provinces, to decentralize power, and a possible role for traditional leadership.

    I was thinking of the traditional (colonially enforced) hierarchy of:

    Paramount Chief
    Senior Chief
    Chief/Chieftainess
    Headman/Headwoman

    What if the headmen had the role of Local Councillor? They would need to have some management education for the job. There could be special management colleges for them, which could overlap with existing management colleges/business schools.

    Headmen would already be elected by their own people, so this would not have the drawbacks of an inherited position. They could be replaced in case of incompetence or fraud.

    The number of headmen would be limited by the size of their population (an X number per 30,000 people, for instance).

    FINANCING

    The headman would receive revenues directly from an independent ZRA (external check) and would be tasked to manage and direct development in his location.

    There could be a local royal tax, which would be paid up to the chief. The Chief would pay a small percentage of that to the Senior Chief. The Senior Chief would pay a small percentage of that to the Paramount Chief.

    This way, they would become financially independent from central government.

    GOVERNMENT

    A system based on this model, could be based around Provinces (see Henry Kyambalesa's work on provinces). There would be a Bemba Province, a Chewa Province, a Tonga Province, a Lozi Province, etc.

    With international cooperation, these Provinces could be rationalized across present day (colonial era) borders.

    The focus on elected headmen (as opposed to inherited positions) would ensure that anyone not belonging to the major group of the area would still receive all the financial support, irrespective of their ethnic/tribal background.

    The benefit would be that:

    - Education could take place in local languages right up to college
    - The inherent legitimacy of central government (paramount chief)
    - Stronger local identity
    - More social stability

    FEDERAL/CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

    The role of federal government would be national defense, international relationships, federal highways, and the coordination of national initiatives. (To name a few.)

    HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS

    The human and civil rights, including protection against discrimination, would be laid down in a federally active Bill Of Rights, which must be enforced by the headmen and the courts (external check). It should be illegal for anyone, including a paramount chief, to direct a headman to act against the bill of rights.

    ReplyDelete

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