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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Chiefs, car loans and the constitution....

A wonderful article by Neo Simutanyi that tickes many boxes on the key issues we have discussed here with respect to traditional leadership and development. Yes, its a bit short on actual proposals, but it does well to highlight the many inconsistencies within our system that need reconciliation as the National Constitution Conference continue to deliberate. Excerpts:

I have a lot of problems with the policy to grant car loans to chiefs in a context where the role of chiefs in Zambia’s governance system is ill-defined. Are chiefs public officers accountable to the Minister of Local Government and Housing or traditional representatives of their people at the local level? How much are chiefs paid to be able to service a car loan in excess of K80 million? It is common knowledge that chiefs’ allowances are so meagre that they are not even able to survive on them. One only needs to visit some chiefs’ palaces across the country to appreciate the fact. some of them live in destitution and their palaces are in states of disrepair.

However, those known to have been supportive of the ruling party have benefited greatly from the government’s largesse. Some chiefs still remember how former president Frederick Titus Chiluba showered them with ‘presents’ and feted them in prestigious hotels in the capital, especially at the height of the third term campaign. In 2006, some chiefs complained that they had not received as much financial rewards from the current incumbent of State House compared to his predecessor.

It is clear to me that the relationship between the government and chiefs is not based on a coherent policy. Chiefs have come to be considered as an important tool for the mobilisation of the people, especially during elections. Their integration into the policy formulation and implementation process has been minimal. For example, a closer examination of the Decentralisation Policy does not provide for a visible role of chiefs in local governance and development. research has revealed that chiefs would like to play an important role in supervising development programmes in their chiefdoms, but feel that they have been largely marginalised by the government and governmental agencies.

Why has public policy not formally incorporated chiefs in policy formulation and implementation? Why are chiefs only considered important for purposes of mobilising the vote? What is the public attitude towards chiefs’ role in local governance? Is the present structure of chieftaincy, whereby chiefs ascend to the throne by appointment and not election consistent to a democratic political order? These may be uncomfortable questions but require honest answers, if the role of chiefs in Zambia is to be meaningful. There is no unanimity as to the extent to which chiefs should be integrated into the modern political system.

....As our delegates deliberate the new constitution, it is important that the role of chiefs in our governance is clearly defined. To pay chiefs salaries and even give them car loans when they are not public officers is difficult to fathom. We have to reach a consensus as to what role chiefs can play in the local governance system and how the institution of chieftancy can be adapted to a modern democratic dispensation.

During the colonial period, chiefs were an extension of the colonial administrative apparatus and had defined functions. If chiefs have to be paid from the public treasury and even access benefits such as car loans, they are public officers and it is important that they become integrated into our local government system. The current Decentralisation Implementation Plan (DIP) should address itself to evolving a more meaningful role for chiefs in local governance.

16 comments:

  1. This is a good piece and touches on one of the reasons why sub-Saharan Africa is under-developed i.e. the lack of autonomous legislative, political and economic institutions with reach. In an apolitical world providing 4x4’s to chiefs may be a good way of spreading development, however, in reality it’s probably going to be no more than a cheap gesture to appease those that carry a voice in rural Zambia.

    If it’s well intended by the powers that be in Zambia that think it will work, then here’s why I think it’s probably not going to work

    (1) Chiefs are not part of the political structure in Zambia and therefore have no voice when comes to dishing out the money,

    (2) the recipient chiefs have no incentive to look after any other interests other than their own (since they’re not voted in, they cannot be voted out) and if resources are divvied out according to the chief then there’s the risk that an even lower underclass of outsiders who don’t subscribe to the ruling political, ideological, religious etc will be created. Worse still there’re probably no government controls to avoid this from happening (please correct me on this if I’m wrong),

    (3) how do you measure the success of these loans? In the commercial world, interest received on a loan once it’s been repaid indicates how successful the loan was. Within a development setting, is success measured by the interest garnered, or by development stimulated by the chief being getting around and conferring with his subordinates’ over a glass illegal Kachasu? If it is the latter then isn’t this the the role of regional government?

    I think if the Zambian Government (and other African Governments) want to bring development to rural areas then they can start by transferring some of the big ministry Headquarters to the least developed regions, (start with the Local Government and Housing ministry in Zambia). By doing this, Government Ministries get the chance to experience rural settings without their city luxuries hereby creating an incentive to bring development to the region and building and better understanding of the problems of the public they’re meant to be serving. Why have the chief when you can have the Minister for Local Government and development! Economically it also means every Ministry Kwacha spent goes twice as far, first it helps the ministry function and then second through the multiplier effect every ministry Kwacha spent locally generates more Kwachas stimulating local development. I’m from Uganda where we have the same problems if not more acute in some cases.

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  2. If chiefs have to be paid from the public treasury and even access benefits such as car loans, they are public officers and it is important that they become integrated into our local government system.

    This is backwards.
    Chiefs receive favours for political reasons and not because of a public officer role.

    Getting rid of unjustified favours may be a smarter solution than finding a justification for such a favour.

    That doesn't mean chiefs would disappear either. It just means chieftancy as an institution would not be subsidized, which would weed it out, at least.

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  3. Random,

    " Chiefs receive favours for political reasons and not because of a public officer role."

    Formally, you are correct because as Neo says the Zambian constitution does not recognise chiefs as urgents of development, though Chiefs do sit on some councils I think (checking on that). In any case they remain crucial to how land is allocated and hence the pace of any development. So they remain crucial to development.

    "Getting rid of unjustified favours may be a smarter solution than finding a justification for such a favour. That doesn't mean chiefs would disappear either. It just means chieftancy as an institution would not be subsidized, which would weed it out, at least."

    Two issues here. These "favours" have some developmental angle to them. I mean in the first instance "car loans" seem like just a political favour. But if chiefs used them in a positive way or had even opted for tractors...not many people would see them as political favours...In any case it is quite possible that government really does see these as positive way of development rather than political favours.

    But a more important question is whether subsiding chiefs is inefficient...I can see that clearly eliminating the source of the distortion may be more effecient....but we need to consider broader issues here. First its practically difficult to remove those distortions. I mean, someone will always be able to give chiefs money whether it comes from government or not. Secondly, giving chiefs money is probably overrated as a problem. I mean chiefs have always got money from governments and they have turned around and done the opposite. They move with the wind and nearly retain tribal loyalties over money..atleast that has been the pattern in Zambia.

    I have tended to see "institutional lock-in" of chiefs as a bigger threat that monetary capture. In other words a House of Chiefs directly under the thumb of the President is much worse to me than independent chiefs who can easily be captured with cash.

    Thats not to say I am not concerned about these bribes. I just think that rather than necessarily worrying about them, its much better to focus as Neo says on figuring out first how we can integrate them properly in governance. It might even transpire that under a new framework, they truly retain a "public officer" role that elimates the concern of these subsidies.

    No doubt you disagree :)

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  4. Anonymous,

    If I could play the "zealous prosecutor" for the government, in the hope of ensuring all bases are covered in your assessment:

    "(1) Chiefs are not part of the political structure in Zambia and therefore have no voice when comes to dishing out the money,"

    But if the government is giving them money directly, in recognition of chief's "de-facto" power at the local level, why would it matter that they are not formally recognised?

    "(2) the recipient chiefs have no incentive to look after any other interests other than their own (since they’re not voted in, they cannot be voted out)"

    This appears not to be the case in practice. Chiefs are tied to the people and seem to act in their interests. Remember the local village is the "social safety net" and sitting on top of it is the chief. I would dispute the image of a selfish chief driven by self interest.


    "...and if resources are divvied out according to the chief then there’s the risk that an even lower underclass of outsiders who don’t subscribe to the ruling political, ideological, religious etc will be created..."

    This is less of a problem in Zambia. Most local tribes are homogenous and Zambia is essentially a Christian nation and this is recognised in the constitution. I do think there's an issue of around culture and gender. In many of our tribes women play a subservient role and clearly greater powers to chiefs may further exarcebate this, but that is NOT directly linked to giving chiefs more money. I fail to see why arbitrarily handing chiefs cash is any worse than giving them cash through a formal institution.



    "how do you measure the success of these loans? In the commercial world, interest received on a loan once it’s been repaid indicates how successful the loan was. Within a development setting, is success measured by the interest garnered, or by development stimulated by the chief being getting around and conferring with his subordinates’ over a glass illegal Kachasu? If it is the latter then isn’t this the the role of regional government?"

    The car loans for chiefs are similar to the loans given to MPs for their cars. I think Neo is right to point out the difference between MPs and Chiefs, but in both case government is not expecting some wider development outcome beyond repaying the loan back.

    "I think if the Zambian Government (and other African Governments) want to bring development to rural areas then they can start by transferring some of the big ministry Headquarters to the least developed regions, (start with the Local Government and Housing ministry in Zambia)."

    Why not take people to the urban areas? I mean rural urban drift has been painted as a "bad" when in actual fact it is mostly good if you believe significant agglomeration effects of cities exist. When the externalities (diseases and so forth) are properly corrected for, we should be encourage urbanisation. Unless of course the issue is really above encourage a DIVERSE set of industries in the country..but that is another issue.

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  5. These "favours" have some developmental angle to them. I mean in the first instance "car loans" seem like just a political favour. But if chiefs used them in a positive way or had even opted for tractors...not many people would see them as political favours...

    Well, let me put it like this.
    Whever chiefs get cars, tractors, a stipent, law school education or bottles of fine wine, the fact that they're getting for themselves, as an entitlement, without any obligation to share it or use it with/for the community means that it's a favour.

    And I bet some chiefs do use their cars in a positive way. It's the fact that they don't have to that is wrong.

    In any case it is quite possible that government really does see these as positive way of development rather than political favours.

    Let's be honest here, government probably thinks any political favour granted is a positive way of development.

    First its practically difficult to remove those distortions. I mean, someone will always be able to give chiefs money whether it comes from government or not.

    That's fine.
    If private citizen, political parties, NGOs or businesses decide to give their own money to chiefs, it's their right. The distortion comes from the fact that the taxpayer money goes to chiefs on an automatic basis without no meaningful reason.

    Secondly, giving chiefs money is probably overrated as a problem. I mean chiefs have always got money from governments and they have turned around and done the opposite. They move with the wind and nearly retain tribal loyalties over money..atleast that has been the pattern in Zambia.

    That's an even better reason for not subsidizing them.
    I mean if chiefs put tribal loyalty first and (that's my addition) their personal interest second, why not let their subjects finance them on a willing basis ?

    Once again, we're always talking about how they're an embedded institution, recognized and respected by everyone and how governments have to work with/through them to get anything done. So why not let chiefs show how respected and recognized they are by not using government money and favours ? I bet the ones that are genuinely liked and influencial will still be able to raise money from their loyal subjects and keep being influential and those who are influential and liked BECAUSE they have government money will disappear.

    Does that sound unfair to you ?

    I have tended to see "institutional lock-in" of chiefs as a bigger threat that monetary capture. In other words a House of Chiefs directly under the thumb of the President is much worse to me than independent chiefs who can easily be captured with cash.

    Both sound bad to me, really.

    Thats not to say I am not concerned about these bribes. I just think that rather than necessarily worrying about them, its much better to focus as Neo says on figuring out first how we can integrate them properly in governance. It might even transpire that under a new framework, they truly retain a "public officer" role that elimates the concern of these subsidies.

    I still don't understand what makes them necessary in governance. I mean do we talk about formally integrating businesses in governance ? or any other group ? Why can't they integrate themselves in the democratic process ?

    What would prevent influential chiefs from advancing their agenda while being part of the civil society ? Or from running of office or endorse whoever runs to defend their agenda ? What prevents them from being public figures ?

    In short, if they're really popular and influential and necessary and unavoidable and liked and respected and recognized, why do they need a formal role ? Why simply not use their influence and respect and recognition and unavoidality and power to shape the agenda as private citizen ?

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  6. This appears not to be the case in practice. Chiefs are tied to the people and seem to act in their interests. Remember the local village is the "social safety net" and sitting on top of it is the chief. I would dispute the image of a selfish chief driven by self interest.

    Incentives, Cho.
    Whether they receive the money or not, whether they're recognized or nto doesn't seem to be linked to their acting selfishly or not.

    And furthermore, you need to come up with an empirical study or something that proves that chiefs, all the chiefs, do act in their people's interests.

    I mean, none of us know all the chiefs, right ?

    This is less of a problem in Zambia. Most local tribes are homogenous and Zambia is essentially a Christian nation and this is recognised in the constitution. I do think there's an issue of around culture and gender. In many of our tribes women play a subservient role and clearly greater powers to chiefs may further exarcebate this, but that is NOT directly linked to giving chiefs more money. I fail to see why arbitrarily handing chiefs cash is any worse than giving them cash through a formal institution.

    First of all, being an "essentially christian nation" and that being recognized in the constitution doesn't protect anyone from religious exclusion. I mean, even if there's 1 non-christian Zambian, that means that there's risk. And let's not talk about exclusion within christian sects.

    Second, local tribes are homogenous, yes. But do migrations happens ? Inter-ethnic marriages ? Are those good things ? Because if you think they are, it may be a good idea to protect the "strangers" from exclusion.

    And as far as the last sentence, the problem is really simple. Anon said that the risk is coming from chiefs allocating arbitrarily. Since there's no control, no rule, no law, they can give it on a discriminatory basis. Yes, on religious basis (only to members of their particular church), ethnic (excluding non-indigenous residents, like say a widow from another "tribe"), ideological (excluding whoever doesn't agree with their position), gender-based (giving money to men and only men, excluding women-led households), political (only to those who voted for the right party) or even worse on totally self-serving grounds (like only giving money to their kin or to families that "gave" them a wive).

    Once again, no one says chiefs automatically do exclude people in their community but the fact that they can is dangerous in itself.

    I can't find it but there was an article about the fertilizer distribution in Malawi, where chiefs were responsible for the local distribution, and it mentionned two cases: one chief would called a village assembly and let his subjects reach a consensus on how to allocate it (good) and one who kept some for hisself and allocated the rest according to loyalty and status (excluding some of those who needed it the most). There's no way to tell if the first or the second case is the most prevalent and even if the second was an exception, that's one abuse that should be prevented by getting rid of the possibility of abuse.

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  7. I fail to see why arbitrarily handing chiefs cash is any worse than giving them cash through a formal institution.

    It's the same as with the debate between taxation and donor aid. It are the strings that are attached to the 'gift'. If the government pays chiefs money, it stands to reason that the government of the day wants to see a return on it's investment come election time, time to evict 'squatters' (local people) for the benefit of Chinese or Libyan 'investors', etc.

    On the other hand, if chiefs by law (the constitution) received for instance 1% of turnover of all the commerce in their area, they would have an independent source of income; they would have an active interest in seeing as more commerce in their areas; they just might have to weigh that increase in commerce against the interests of their own people, something an appointed official or member of the central government would not feel the need to do.

    I think it is the connection with local interests that is interesting here.

    On the other hand, we have also seen that disputes between chiefs can get out of hand, and would perhaps need an independent body to promote relations and settle disputes between chiefs. I think a lot of land disputes can be settled by making the boundaries more official and well documented, which would mainly be a surveying exercise.

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  8. Random,

    ”Whever chiefs get cars, tractors, a stipent, law school education or bottles of fine wine, the fact that they're getting for themselves, as an entitlement, without any obligation to share it or use it with/for the community means that it's a favour.”

    Agreed.
    But my point was more about whether “arbitrary” nature of the handout was problematic and the extent to which that judgement depended on the end use.

    ”And I bet some chiefs do use their cars in a positive way. It's the fact that they don't have to that is wrong.”

    I don’t get what you mean by “wrong”. Do you mean its “unfair” on others or simply that you believe it is inefficient way for government to use public funds. If it’s the latter then I repeat that we probably overestimate the strong incentives that already on chiefs.

    ”Let's be honest here, government probably thinks any political favour granted is a positive way of development. “

    Well that does invalidated the possibility that political favours can lead to developmental outcomes.

    A key example is one provided by Yakima in a discussion sometime on his idea that “food based corruption” could be a viable second best instead of banning political funding explicitly – see the discussion on Sakism.

    ” If private citizen, political parties, NGOs or businesses decide to give their own money to chiefs, it's their right. The distortion comes from the fact that the taxpayer money goes to chiefs on an automatic basis without no meaningful reason.”

    Point taken.
    But the wider point actually is that’s chiefs already have public obligations including maintaining law and order in their chiefdoms and sitting on district councils. See the Chiefs Act (1965) and the Development and Registration of Villages Act (1971), which I have scribd here.

    ”That's an even better reason for not subsidizing them.
    I mean if chiefs put tribal loyalty first and (that's my addition) their personal interest second, why not let their subjects finance them on a willing basis ?”


    I am not arguing that they should be paid. My point was simply that the problem of inducing them to act in a certain way is actually overrated. In other words, my argument was more about the extent of “government capture” rather than the merits of government funding them.

    ”Once again, we're always talking about how they're an embedded institution, recognized and respected by everyone and how governments have to work with/through them to get anything done. So why not let chiefs show how respected and recognized they are by not using government money and favours ? I bet the ones that are genuinely liked and influencial will still be able to raise money from their loyal subjects and keep being influential and those who are influential and liked BECAUSE they have government money will disappear.”

    Well, three points here:

    1. Chiefs are already an in institution. What I have discussed elsewhere is how best to involve this resilient institution into development. It strikes me we either make chiefs more relevant to achieving development outcomes or eliminate them completely. They can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. I think they can be part of the solution. What is missing in African thought is how chiefs can be integrated in development, not so much the merits. We all see the merits, but we need to think of the HOW. And that is where I am at the moment…thinking of the HOW without distorting other goals.

    2. Chiefs are already recognized in the Laws of Zambians as agents of governance. I referred to the two acts I mentioned above. So it some sense the law recognizes them as public servants. The question again is whether the law goes too far or goes far enough.

    3. The idea of a chief raising revenue or taxes from the people is not consistent with Zambian law. This places constraints on how much a chief can expect from his own people. Yes people bring tributes but those are not regard as “taxes” under Zambian law. If local people decided they wanted to pay taxes to a chief to enhance development in the area, that would most certainly be illegal. In short their revenue constraints on chiefs. Incidentally they can’t actually sell the land as such. What happens is you give them a “token” when you visit them and they give you the land :) I can go on….but my general point is that there are significant constraints.


    I said : “I have tended to see "institutional lock-in" of chiefs as a bigger threat that monetary capture. In other words a House of Chiefs directly under the thumb of the President is much worse to me than independent chiefs who can easily be captured with cash”.,

    You responded : ” Both sound bad to me, really.

    Agreed.
    But we don’t leave in the ideal. Often we must accept a “lesser evil” so to speak.

    ”I still don't understand what makes them necessary in governance. I mean do we talk about formally integrating businesses in governance ? or any other group ? Why can't they integrate themselves in the democratic process ?”

    My three points above addresses this point.

    ”And furthermore, you need to come up with an empirical study or something that proves that chiefs, all the chiefs, do act in their people's interests.”

    Of course not all chiefs act in the people’s interest. But in most cases the greater value they place on perpetual succession of their institutions predisposes them to care for the people.

    ”First of all, being an "essentially christian nation" and that being recognized in the constitution doesn't protect anyone from religious exclusion. I mean, even if there's 1 non-christian Zambian, that means that there's risk. And let's not talk about exclusion within christian sects.”

    I think you missed the point. The point I was making was that I don’t see how giving chiefs money would generate worse outsomes on the issues Anonymous mentions, than declaring that a nation has a specific religious identity. I am not saying they would be no religious discrimination because most people are Christian. I am saying if religious discrimination was a problem, you should worry about the text in the constitution not giving chiefs money arbitrary. I just don’t see how giving chiefs money is worse than whats out there in terms of discrimination. Also the point was around HOW the chiefs are given money and how that affects the issues Anonymous identifies. A point MrK misses down the line as well.

    ”Anon said that the risk is coming from chiefs allocating arbitrarily. Since there's no control, no rule, no law, they can give it on a discriminatory basis. Yes, on religious basis (only to members of their particular church), ethnic (excluding non-indigenous residents, like say a widow from another "tribe"), ideological (excluding whoever doesn't agree with their position), gender-based (giving money to men and only men, excluding women-led households), political (only to those who voted for the right party) or even worse on totally self-serving grounds (like only giving money to their kin or to families that "gave" them a wive).”

    I normally call these “theoretical dangers” lol! The reason is that they are so small. Are we really saying that giving chiefs money arbitrary would generate all those problems over and above a “rule based” system of funding WITHOUT checks and balances (as is the case in Zambia anyway in our local system)? And that is exactly the point – the “rule based” system has its own imperfections which renders the comparison on those small grounds pointless.

    Not only that, but also the amount of money given under the two systems matter. If it is small….do your points really matter?

    ”Once again, no one says chiefs automatically do exclude people in their community but the fact that they can is dangerous in itself.”

    Degrees, Random.
    Size of exclusion is important. Like good econometricians say, it’s not just the p-value that is important but also the size of the coefficient lol!

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  9. MrK,

    You quote is out of context. Of course I am pro rule based system of funding. The point was made with respect to whether arbitrary funding would worse gender, tribe or religious differences among local people than rule based funding for chiefs.

    My point is that it does not.

    Of course that does not mean "arbitrary" funding does not have other problems, such as the ones you have outlined. I just don't think racial, ethnic and religious problems in the areas managed by chiefs, are among them.

    On disputes between chiefs. Thats what the local government ministry is there to do. Remember the house of chiefs falls under the Ministry of Local Government. Its part of the ministry.

    The whole system needs to be reformed including those silly maps of 1958 that forms the basis for current boundaries. By the way I was reading one the Provincial and District Boundaries Act (1965) in Volume 11 of the laws of Zambia. Its very clear on districts etc. We need something similar for these chief downs rather than maps we cannot even see properly and are held by the ministry.

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  10. I don’t get what you mean by “wrong”. Do you mean its “unfair” on others or simply that you believe it is inefficient way for government to use public funds. If it’s the latter then I repeat that we probably overestimate the strong incentives that already on chiefs.

    wrong. morally wrong.

    A key example is one provided by Yakima in a discussion sometime on his idea that “food based corruption” could be a viable second best instead of banning political funding explicitly

    Except that he saw food-based corruption by political parties as a better alternative to food-based corruption by the government.
    And we're talking about using public funds here, aren't we ?

    But the wider point actually is that’s chiefs already have public obligations including maintaining law and order in their chiefdoms and sitting on district councils. See the Chiefs Act (1965) and the Development and Registration of Villages Act (1971), which I have scribd here.

    Sitting on district councils is an appointment, not an obligation. And mantaining law and order is suspect.

    but anyway the most interesting part is this:

    1. Chiefs are already an in institution. What I have discussed elsewhere is how best to involve this resilient institution into development. It strikes me we either make chiefs more relevant to achieving development outcomes or eliminate them completely. They can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. I think they can be part of the solution. What is missing in African thought is how chiefs can be integrated in development, not so much the merits. We all see the merits, but we need to think of the HOW. And that is where I am at the moment…thinking of the HOW without distorting other goals.

    What are the merits ? I mean, yeah, because of a mix of colonial post-partum symdrom, lack of historical knowledge and disappointment with post-colonial modernism, many African think chiefs should be given a bigger role.

    But once again, why? We get burkean arguments about how they're already embedded institutions but nobody seems to notice that they're actually supported legally and financially by the modern state. If they were such strong institutions, why the support and why would they need more ?

    2. Chiefs are already recognized in the Laws of Zambians as agents of governance. I referred to the two acts I mentioned above. So it some sense the law recognizes them as public servants. The question again is whether the law goes too far or goes far enough.

    ^^^ Exactly. They get legal recognition and money for being "agents of governance" and what do they do with it?

    3. The idea of a chief raising revenue or taxes from the people is not consistent with Zambian law. This places constraints on how much a chief can expect from his own people. Yes people bring tributes but those are not regard as “taxes” under Zambian law. If local people decided they wanted to pay taxes to a chief to enhance development in the area, that would most certainly be illegal. In short their revenue constraints on chiefs. Incidentally they can’t actually sell the land as such. What happens is you give them a “token” when you visit them and they give you the land :) I can go on….but my general point is that there are significant constraints.

    They can't take donations ?
    Churches haven't been raising taxes (mandatory collection) for a while and they're not doing bad, are they ? What prevents the oh-so-popular-and-loved-and-respected chiefs from asking the people who love them so much for money ?

    My three points above addresses this point.

    Actually they don't. Why can't chiefs raise money like churches, the rotary club or soccer clubs do?

    Of course not all chiefs act in the people’s interest. But in most cases the greater value they place on perpetual succession of their institutions predisposes them to care for the people.

    What if I said "in most cases chiefs act in their own interest" ?
    Would it have as much value as your statement ?

    I mean, we don't know. Unless you go on the ground and find out exactly how many of them do right (and then defining doing right is an issue in itself), you cannot throw around statements like that.

    And Mugabe and his crew too are supposed to place value on the perpetua succession of their institutions.

    The point I was making was that I don’t see how giving chiefs money would generate worse outsomes on the issues. I just don’t see how giving chiefs money is worse than whats out there in terms of discrimination.

    Because they have, by nature, even less checks and balance, because less diversity leaves the minority (whatever the thing is) even more vulnerable in the villages and because it is left to their judgement.

    I normally call these “theoretical dangers” lol! The reason is that they are so small.

    The Malawi case was "small"? Or do you really think that chiefs are angels incapable of such excesses ?
    I mean even admiting they do try to keep their subjects happy, nothing says that they do try to keep all of their subjects happy. And that's exactly the issue, what do we do about the people the chief has an interest in excluding?

    I mean are you really saying that the possibility even remote of discrimination doesn't exist ?

    Are we really saying that giving chiefs money arbitrary would generate all those problems over and above a “rule based” system of funding WITHOUT checks and balances (as is the case in Zambia anyway in our local system)?
    Oh yes.

    And that is exactly the point – the “rule based” system has its own imperfections which renders the comparison on those small grounds pointless.

    I don't see why two imperfect systems can't be compared. And there's the issue of perfectibility. Democratic institutions can be messy, corrupt, inefficient but they're always improveable because they're democratic. Royalty ? Unless you have the french revolution to show that regicide is possible, they don't try.

    Not only that, but also the amount of money given under the two systems matter. If it is small….do your points really matter?
    Yes. Because the point is not to see whether it feeds the Zambian fiscal deficit, the point is about the political balance between institutions in Zambian villages.

    Degrees, Random. 
Size of exclusion is important. Like good econometricians say, it’s not just the p-value that is important but also the size of the coefficient lol!

    I guess it wouldn't matter if the BNP was able to do whatever in local governments it controls because "size of exclusion" is important.

    I mean being excluded from basic services or some small sums of money can turn any rural African life into hell. Go tell villagers getting not getting fertilizer paid by the government of Malawi because they crossed the chief that the size of exclusion matter.

    And beyond that, we have no empirical data here. May be 90% of the chiefs don't do it. Don't you think it would be better for the chiefs themselves if the 10% who do abuse their powers were prevented from doing so?

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  11. And here's a question:

    Why don't you think arbitrary funding to chiefs wouldn't run the risk of helping exclusion and discrimination ?

    Is it because the system prevents it? Is it because you believe chiefs don't do it even if they can? Is it because you think "local people" wouldn't allow it?

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  12. Cho,

    1. Chiefs are already an in institution. What I have discussed elsewhere is how best to involve this resilient institution into development.

    My question is - what do they already have? What resources to they have, what rights - looking at the answers to those, we could spell out specific policies that would involve them in development.

    Do they own the land in their area? What exactly are their rights?

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  13. Random,

    ” Sitting on district councils is an appointment, not an obligation.”

    It’s not an appointment its inherited, which makes it an obligation :)

    ”And mantaining law and order is suspect.”

    That’s subjective.

    ”What are the merits ? I mean, yeah, because of a mix of colonial post-partum symdrom, lack of historical knowledge and disappointment with post-colonial modernism, many African think chiefs should be given a bigger role. But once again, why? We get burkean arguments about how they're already embedded institutions but nobody seems to notice that they're actually supported legally and financially by the modern state. If they were such strong institutions, why the support and why would they need more ?”

    This would require a more comprehensive answer than I can offer in a quick response. We have discussed this before and in that post on “A cultural approach to development” I offer a partial reason for utilizing existing institutions to reduce the inefficiencies of two parallel systems. I also go on to note that people place values on these institutions and if development is about expanding local freedoms, those freedoms, provided they have no negative distortions nationally ought to be expanded. On top of these issues you have to consider traditional leadership within the context of a local safety net in the absence of a national policy of social protection. Anyway, as I say, and as you appreciate, that question alone is a big one and one that requires a fuller post. However, I do still think that the “how” question is still the more challenging than the “merit” question. Though I concede not everyone evidence is convinced of the “merit”.

    ”Churches haven't been raising taxes (mandatory collection) for a while and they're not doing bad, are they ? What prevents the oh-so-popular-and-loved-and-respected chiefs from asking the people who love them so much for money ?”

    I think your question is interesting, but it is missing the point. The question here is whether traditional authorities are a public good or not? The chiefs’ lack of ability to raise finance in the same way churches does not invalidate the central question. Personally, I think churches are public good in so far as “virtue” is a public good that is central to effective function of society and markets in general. But of course we don’t subsidise virtue (or churches that promote virtue) may be because it is not politically feasible.

    ”I don't see why two imperfect systems can't be compared.”
    Because the magnitude of imperfection can swing either way. My point any was that even if you could, these are small differences.

    ”And there's the issue of perfectibility. Democratic institutions can be messy, corrupt, inefficient but they're always improveable because they're democratic. “

    I don’t see why the same is not true for any type of leadership. It can always be improved upon. The issue is about incentives for improvement and pace of that improvement, not that one cannot improve.

    ”Yes. Because the point is not to see whether it feeds the Zambian fiscal deficit, the point is about the political balance between institutions in Zambian villages.”

    Except the “political balance” is within the margin of error because the differences between the two systems we are comparing may be so small :)

    ”I guess it wouldn't matter if the BNP was able to do whatever in local governments it controls because "size of exclusion" is important. I mean being excluded from basic services or some small sums of money can turn any rural African life into hell. Go tell villagers getting not getting fertilizer paid by the government of Malawi because they crossed the chief that the size of exclusion matter.”

    ”And beyond that, we have no empirical data here. May be 90% of the chiefs don't do it. Don't you think it would be better for the chiefs themselves if the 10% who do abuse their powers were prevented from doing so?”

    I agree with that, but that is very different from anonymous’ initial argument. Any bad leadership could further damage the institution itself and weaken it.

    ”Why don't you think arbitrary funding to chiefs wouldn't run the risk of helping exclusion and discrimination ? Is it because the system prevents it? Is it because you believe chiefs don't do it even if they can? Is it because you think "local people" wouldn't allow it?”

    That’s not what I am saying. My point is that even if it did it probably wouldn’t be much worse than under rule based system in Zambia. In Zambia that’s the key. I fear Anonymous has in mind some modern traditional system that would implement an effective rule based system. I just can’t see that in Zambia.

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  14. Mrk,

    ”My question is - what do they already have? What resources to they have, what rights - looking at the answers to those, we could spell out specific policies that would involve them in development. Do they own the land in their area? What exactly are their rights?”

    This can only be addressed by a full post. I’ll soon start a series on chiefs…your questions are extremely useful for sign posting what that could look at.
    A new post will soon “lay out the course”….as they say in Star Trek :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. This would require a more comprehensive answer than I can offer in a quick response. We have discussed this before and in that post on “A cultural approach to development” I offer a partial reason for utilizing existing institutions to reduce the inefficiencies of two parallel systems. I also go on to note that people place values on these institutions and if development is about expanding local freedoms, those freedoms, provided they have no negative distortions nationally ought to be expanded. On top of these issues you have to consider traditional leadership within the context of a local safety net in the absence of a national policy of social protection. Anyway, as I say, and as you appreciate, that question alone is a big one and one that requires a fuller post. However, I do still think that the “how” question is still the more challenging than the “merit” question. Though I concede not everyone evidence is convinced of the “merit”.

    You're still dribbling around the question, Cho.

    The extend to which people value those institutions is unknown. My guess is that most people value good chiefs and many respect the power those institutions have partially because they're supported by the modern state.
    On the local safety net issue, once again, financed by the modern state. And beyond that, why don't we institutionnalize extend families ? Isn't the extended family the strongest safety net existing anywhere in Africa ?

    No seriously, you refuse to even acknowledge the contradiction here. Grassroots institutions do not need support from the top to keep existing.

    I think your question is interesting, but it is missing the point. The question here is whether traditional authorities are a public good or not? The chiefs’ lack of ability to raise finance in the same way churches does not invalidate the central question. Personally, I think churches are public good in so far as “virtue” is a public good that is central to effective function of society and markets in general. But of course we don’t subsidise virtue (or churches that promote virtue) may be because it is not politically feasible.

    1. I'm not saying chiefs can't raise finance this way. I think they could, some of them at least, but they don't because they don't have to.
    2. churches aren't financed by taxes because they're no agreement on their utility as an universal public good. To make it simple, I don't think protestants view the catholic church or the mosquee next door as a public and vice versa. And let's not get into atheists and agnostics. So someone who value religious freedom should know that everybody (the churches, the believers, the non-believers) is better off in this system.
    3. Even for their subjects, it's not so much the instution of the chieftancy but some chiefs that may be viewed as a public good. And once again, universal acceptance is not obvious. So why not let them sort it out with the people who like them ?

    I don’t see why the same is not true for any type of leadership. It can always be improved upon. The issue is about incentives for improvement and pace of that improvement, not that one cannot improve.

    Because the incentives are weak. period.
    That's the only reason democracies have the biggest potential for improvement, because they provide the strongest incentives.

    I agree with that, but that is very different from anonymous’ initial argument. Any bad leadership could further damage the institution itself and weaken it.

    No it's not that different.
    Anon and me, I think, were arguing that the system is weak and leave lots of room for major screw up by bad chiefs. As I said before, I personally think that the fact that screw up are possible is bad in itself.
    And yes, putting an end to the blind subsidization would make the chiefs look better because the bad ones will be out. period.

    My point is that even if it did it probably wouldn’t be much worse than under rule based system in Zambia. In Zambia that’s the key. I fear Anonymous has in mind some modern traditional system that would implement an effective rule based system. I just can’t see that in Zambia.

    The soft bigotry of low expectations.. And a weak argument too..

    "we're not good enough to impliment an effective rule based system so let's just get all feudal because it wouldn't be much worse"


    Honestly and with all due respect, I'm more and more convinced that you keep making those arguments with the welfare of the chiefs in mind.

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  16. ” No seriously, you refuse to even acknowledge the contradiction here. Grassroots institutions do not need support from the top to keep existing.”

    It’s not about whether these grassroot interventions need full support or not, its about whether government intervention would move society to a better social optimum.

    ”Even for their subjects, it's not so much the instution of the chieftancy but some chiefs that may be viewed as a public good. And once again, universal acceptance is not obvious. So why not let them sort it out with the people who like them ?”

    Uh? Coordination failures, incomplete information, under-valuing the public good, etc etc etc….Government’s role is to ensure that all these things are considered…just because certain systems are undervalued by individuals does not mean the aggregate social benefits are not greater …


    ”Because the incentives are weak. period.”

    Well that’s dependent on how chiefs are incorporate into national governance.
    Even if the current incentives are weak, it does not mean they need be so.

    ”That's the only reason democracies have the biggest potential for improvement, because they provide the strongest incentives.”

    Many democratic systems suffer from weak incentives in practice….The true sources of incentives lies in the underlying distribution of de-facto and de-jure power in society.



    ”The soft bigotry of low expectations.. And a weak argument too..

    "we're not good enough to impliment an effective rule based system so let's just get all feudal because it wouldn't be much worse"


    You have missed the point. I am not saying you should not act because we are not able to do it properly. My point is that the differences between the two systems are negligible in practice. Yes theoretically their may be differences, but in practice…none that I can see

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