1 map, 5 figures, 8 tables
Text language: English
In this book, Blessings Chinsinga examines whether democratic decentralization promotes successful poverty reduction policy as is the hope of many development policy actors. Since the regime changed to multi-party democracy in 1994, combating poverty became a focus of national, economic and social policy in Malawi. However, implementing this policy has not been easy.
The central – political – problem of land scarcity is rarely explored by the donors who control this policy field and whose approaches tend, as elsewhere in the Global South, to depoliticize development. And as a result of competition between donors, the various programmes and initiatives implemented since 1994 are, more often than not, incompatible. The decentralisation policy which, again, was primarily a donor initiative faced similar problems: the transfer of responsibilities to the local level remained significantly behind the original schedule; the legal framework of the decentralisation process was inconsistent and incomplete and has not been fully implemented to the present day.
The institutions established at national level to accompany the decentralisation process tend to work more against than with each other; the practices of NGOs – a political force that originally provided strong support for this process – undermine the functionality of the decentralized entities that have been created; and “traditional chiefs” and parliamentary representatives have managed to “capture” the decentralisation process, by marginalizing the elected district councillors. In other words, the particular way in which multi-party democracy works at national level in Malawi blocks the process of democratic decentralization at local level.
Chinsinga’s solid empirical study succeeds in injecting a welcome shot of realism into the decentralisation debate which is carried over long distances by highly unrealistic hopes and expectations – an observation which would seem to be applicable not only to Malawi, but to many African countries.