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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Readers Weekly: Fiscal Decentralisation - Friend or Foe?

The President recently announced a radical proposal for greater fiscal decentralisation, in form of automatic allocation of national revenues. This is something that is already tried in other African "our Government will also devise an appropriate formula for sharing national taxes collected at the centre within the jurisdiction of every local authority in order to strengthen the revenue base”.

Some have suggested that this is long overdue. Others have noted that such fiscal decentralisation may lead to greater corruption and inefficiency because of local elites and misaligned incentives. To delve deeper into this issue, we asked our readers via Facebook, website and email, whether more money at local level is the answer. The following is a selected sample of “properly identified" responses:

Martha Namusika Sepeto :
To me it sounds like decentralisation. May be a good direction if there are passionate people at the local level. Ova the past years, the central government has had challenges that have seen them unable to deliver. Local jurisdiction as powerful as it was in the late 80s will have well managed and efficient local governments. Remember, there was a time in history of our country when the council had better working conditions and well managed towns in terms of sanitation. On the other hand corruption in the councils is at alarming levels! 

MaChi Mule's :
Yes - more money for councils may solve problems of our communities but what is need from workers in the local government is accountability, which can only happen through intensive monitoring & evaluation. This can be done by govt. in conjunction with community members, hence, the need for encouraging social capital and cohesion within communities.
Mathews Mwewa :
Looking back a bit, i have been tracking the President's statements. At one point he mentioned change of the governance system. From the current centralised sytem to a federal government system. This means that provinces will become semi autonomous states where they will run a budget and make investments based on local decisions. Obviously we have to be vigilant against corrupt practices. The current cleansing approach should be affected so as to give an example to those with corrupt minds. We need to clean up. Strengthening local governments is the way to go. Accountability is key.
Rolf Shenton :
I support PF mainly for their commitment to devolution of power because it is more difficult to steal public resources from people you know and whose respect, trust and cooperation you rely on. Zambia needs a big dose of patriotism if the free- fall plunder of common natural capital is to be stopped. Corruption has spread due to the unequal application of justice by the state with individuals so often getting away with plunder and worse. .... Underlying all this, the fundamental question therefore is whether Zambia can afford to continue following "capitalism's" culture of rewarding unbridled individual wealth acquisition with status and power above age-old universal values that put community interests first. Hehe! I must sound like a communist to some of you but I'm convinced the same question is at the core of the global financial crisis! It come down to good stewardship of the planet.
Kunda MK :
This is a step in the right direction. Decentralization and empowerment of the local councils does not just deal with jurisdiction matters only but also financial independence of the local government. Revenue sources of the most councils were over taken by party politics. The separation of councils from political cadres. Now with this pronouncements and using local revenue to develop and provide local government services. Increased funding, from central government, each council would be required to submit a budget for the major projects and their deficit. This is how most local agencies can be sustained. Accountability and strict audit would ensure that revenue are applied to pertinent projects and curb corruption. The PF want to go ahead and implement even minor local administration at the village and ward level. This is a welcome move.
Masuka M :
Zambia needs a good decentralisation framework. We actually already have a very good one, it has just never been implemented since it was put together in 2006/7. So, what has been proposed is not anything new. What the President mentioned in his speech sounds similar to the intergovernmental fiscal relations policy that pertains in South Africa. This is a great system of non-partisan and non-tribal equitable distribution of resources based on poverty levels and population.
Steven Putter :
The way i see it is that we are heading for participatory democracy, great for the future of Zambia, the community forums or governing bodies will need some funds, but mostly capacity building is required, communication capability being the first and foremost, a serious assessment of communication should be done for this including the educational system.


  1. I am a huge advocate for decentralization as it nips beauracracy in the bus. It simply means resources are brought closer to people, might as well be easy to curb corruption as we can then easily track the flow of resources. Pensioners, new employees, budgets and all allocations will be accessed straight from provincial headquaters. It will be great to see which province will exercise fiscal discipline and succed

  2. It is very important that funding is decentralised along with responsibility and accountability. The last ten years or so we have seen decentalization of responsibility without the required funding which does not work unless another tax is invented to support it. Eg school boards are given more financial responsibility to meet with no increase in funds so they increase the school fees. Accountabilty is generally better at a local level as we can actually go and shout at people in our own town a lot easier than going to Lusaka to yell at the MP or the minister. Records must also be decentralised. Land records, birth and death records, pension records etc to remove the cost of going to Lusaka for everything from whatever corner of the country.

  3. Whether we face the challenge of corruption at local government level or not, we must decentralise. The important thing is to bring power closer to the people and get them more involved in their own affairs. If we had decentralised years back, we would not have the Barotse "crisis" and people like HH (UPND) feeling that the creation of Muchinga Province is just development keeping going to the same region (Bemba), which effectively means tribalism. So yeah, we must decentralise. And fast! In due course, we will eventually establish an effective anti-corruption regime in all aspects of our national and local governance. But of course government must be responsible for huge infrastructural development like highways, etc


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