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Friday, 19 December 2008

On the need for smaller government...

One of the many positive experiences of blogging this year, has been the many times issues we have discussed on this blog have been picked up in national debate, with action sometime taken. It therefore comes as no surprise that even as the year approaches to a close, this trend continues - case in point, the latest PF proposals for cost cutting :

Mr Sata said in Lusaka yesterday during a Press briefing that the Government should continue finding ways of reducing expenditure to mitigate the effects of the current global financial crisis.

As one of the options, he said, the Government should start trimming down the number of ministers, deputy ministers and permanent secretaries as a measure to reduce the cost of Government operations.

He urged President Banda to consider reducing his Cabinet to cut on expenditure. Mr Sata said that what the Government should be doing now was to find solutions to problems facing the country and stop blaming everything on external factors like the financial crisis. He called on the media to be proactive and fight for the majority of Zambians threatened by poverty.

“I am urging President Banda to start reducing the number of ministers, deputy ministers and permanent secretaries in ministries where there are two people doing one job,” he said.

On the National Constitutional Conference (NCC), Mr Sata maintained that it should be suspended. He said Government could still save some money from the NCC if it focused on thorny issues in the Constitution and made necessary amendments like what his party did in 2005 when it presented a proposed bill to Parliament on the 50 per cent-plus one vote.

Many times contributors to the Zambian Economist have called for smaller government. The following posts touch on the subject :

Manifesto for Economic Transformation in which MrK proposes a restructuring of government to about 12 ministries.
Cabinet Size - Mulongoti Versus Everyone? which discusses issues related to "tribal balancing" and whether the current government is bloated.
Agenda for the next government? (Guest Blog - HK) in which HK proposes a "smaller government" along the lines of the Pf proposals. He repeats that call in A congratulatory note to Zambians (Guest Blog - HK)
A memo to President Banda provided early advice to the new president to build a much leaner government focused on the essentials and not just create posts to reward those that helped you get elected.

As a footnote, another interesting post is Optimal size of Government? where I argue that the Mung'omba Draft Constitution appears to tie a sitting government to the number of cabinet posts. A recipe for disaster if adopted.

It would be interesting to see how GRZ reacts to the Pf proposals and just how far they go with the cost cutting measures. In More money more embassies..... we discussed the need for cutting waste in the area of embassies. But I am not holding my breath, especially given the latest signals from the President on Cuba :

Zambia may open mission - RB (ZNBC News, 19/12/08) : President Rupiah Banda says government is considering opening a diplomatic mission in Cuba. Mr.Banda says Zambia stands to benefit a lot from Cuba once representation is established in that country. He said this when he received credentials from Cuba's new Ambassador to Zambia, Carmelina Rodriguez, at State House in Lusaka on Friday. President Banda paid tribute to the Cuban government for its support to Zambia in various sectors. And Ambassador Rodriguez pledged to strengthen the already warm relations between Zambia and Cuba. She also thanked the Zambian government for speaking against the American blockade on Cuba.

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