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The Size and Functions of the Zambian Government

Last updated on January 24, 2012

My Fellow Zambians,

I wish to share with you my views concerning the size and functions of the Zambian government following President Rupiah Banda’s announcement of his bloated 22-member Cabinet, many of the portfolios having 2 Deputy Ministerial sinecures. These portfolios are as follows:

  1. Minister of Justice;
  2. Minister of Defence;
  3. Minister of Finance and National Planning;
  4. Minister of Home Affairs;
  5. Minister of Health;
  6. Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  7. Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives;
  8. Minister of Local Government and Housing;
  9. Minister of Gender and Development;
  10. Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry;
  11. Minister of Communication and Transport;
  12. Minister of Community Development and Social Services;
  13. Minister of Education;
  14. Minister of Energy and Water Development;
  15. Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services;
  16. Minister of Labour and Social Security;
  17. Minister of Lands;
  18. Minister of Mines and Mineral Development;
  19. Minister of Science, Technology and Vocational Training;
  20. Minister of Sport, Youth and Child Development;
  21. Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources; and
  22. Minister of Works and Supply.

I believe a radical and fundamental reduction in the size of a national government is the only viable means by which a country can save public resources and ultimately pay off a good portion of the national debt, reduce taxes and interest rates to stimulate its national economy and job creation, improve infrastructure in both urban and rural areas, enhance safety and security in local communities, and provide adequately for the needs of education, public health, civil servants, and civil service retirees.

Tanzi and Schuknecht (1998:20), on the basis of a series of empirical studies, have, for instance, found that “countries with ‘small’ governments can provide essential services and minimum social safety nets while avoiding the disincentive effects caused by high taxes and large-scale redistribution on growth, employment, and welfare.”

Government Size versus Economic Growth

The size of a country’s government can have a significant effect on the level of its economic growth. As Barro, Gwartney and others, Smith, and the World Bank have found, there is a correlation between an expansion in the size of a government (reflected by an increase in its expenditures) and a decline in private investment and economic growth.

Gwartney and others, in a study designed to examine the impact of an expansion in the size of a country’s government on economic growth, have, for example, found that:

  1. An excessively large national government can have a negative effect on economic growth. Grossman, among other researchers, has found a similar correlation in his study of the U.S. government: “there [is] … indeed a negative relationship between growth in government and the rate of economic growth.”
  2. As a government grows in size, it crowds out investment, leads to a decline in productivity growth and contributes to a slowdown in the growth rate of its real gross domestic product (GDP). Similarly, Smith has found that “economies with large public sectors grow more slowly and suffer high rates of unemployment than those where this is not the case.”
  3. An increase of 10 percentage points in government expenditure as a share of a country’s GDP is associated with a decline of approximately 1 percentage point in the growth rate of real GDP. Barro has also found that a 1 percentage point rise in the share of government consumption in GDP is associated with a 0.14 percentage point retardation in the rate of growth of real GDP per head of population. Folster and Henrekson have found a similar correlation. And
  4. From 1980 to 1995, the world’s 5 fastest-growing economies—that is, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong—had total government xpenditures averaging 20.1% of GDP, and was less than half the average of ECD countries.

Similarly, a study focused on the growth of public expenditure in industrial contries between 1870 and 1996, Tanzi and Schuknecht have found that countries with relatively small governments can perform “as well or even better than their counterparts with relatively big governments.” In Middleton’s words, a “smaller, better-focused government is better able to deliver than is big government.”

Peden and Bradley, using U.S. data for the period 1949-85 to examine the effect of the size of government on economic output and productivity, have also concluded that the “level of government activity in the economy has a negative effect on both the economic base and the economic growth rate growth.”

In all, as a government grows in size and more and more resources are allocated by political rather than market forces, economic growth, as Gwartney and others (1998:3) have found, wanes and eventually becomes negative partly because the higher taxes and/or additional borrowing required to finance government expenditures exert a negative effect on the economy.

Core Functions of Government

A small government cannot promote economic growth unless governmental institutions and agencies can adequately perform their core functions (Gwartney, 1998:5)—including the following: protection of property rights and civil liberties; providing for public safety, security and infrastructure; enforcing business and other forms of contracts among individuals and/or institutions; inducing commercial and industrial activities; and facilitating the provision of quality education, training and health care.

Let us consider a few other prescriptions of the functions of government cited in the literature.

1) Amoako (2004) has cited the following as important functions which the “capable state” ought to perform: guaranteeing peace and security, providing and enabling political and legal environment for economic growth, and
promoting equitable distribution of the fruits of economic growth.

2) Anderson (1989:19-23) has identified the following as essential functions of government:

(a) Provision of economic infrastructure, including the basic institutions, rules and arrangements needed in the operation of a modern economic system;

(b) Provision of public goods and services, including national defense and security, roads and bridges, sewage disposal facilities, and traffic control systems;

(c) Resolution of group conflicts in pursuance of justice, public order and political stability;

(d) Maintenance of competition between and among economic units;

(e) Protection of the fragile natural environment against degradation and wasteful use;

(f) Provision for minimum access by citizens to economic outputs—including social security, unemployment compensation, food and housing assistance, and medical care; and

(g) Stabilization of the national economy by means of monetary and fiscal policies.

3) Hart (1996a and 1996b) has tendered a general and perhaps more useful description of what should be among the most basic of the functions of a country’s government:

“Governments should be restricted to functions which, by their nature, are necessary monopolies in which competitive private enterprise cannot operate efficiently and in the national interest…. [It is] … determined that private monopolies are antisocial … [although] there are some functions in which monopolies are necessary for efficiency. It would be impracticable, for example, to have numerous competitive reticulated services for the supply of water, gas and electricity, etc.”

In retrospect, defining the core functions of government should be the crucial first step toward responsible governing, because delivering public services efficiently and effectively is hardly significant unless a country’s government knows clearly what it is supposed to deliver and why (Evergreen Freedom Foundation, 2003).

In this endeavour, Zambia needs to consider the prospect of creating a smaller executive arm of the government consisting of the following 10 Cabinet portfolios:

1) *Education, Training and Sport*: To b­e directly responsible for advising and represent­ing the Republican president on­ matters and issu­es­ rela­ting to the follo­wing: general and tertiary educa­tion; vocational training; the training of teach­ers; adult literacy program­s; sport­ing program­s in all Govern­ment-fund­ed education­al and training insti­tutions; and matt­ers con­cern­ing remu­nera­tion for educators, trai­ners and re­search­ers.

2) *Public Health and Sani­tation*: To be directly responsible for advising and repre­senting the Republican president on­ matters and issu­es­ rela­ting to medical care, medi­cal research, child health and developm­ent, family planning, dis­ease cont­rol and preven­tion, food safety (local and imported food­stuff), drug safety (local and imported medi­cines), safety of
herbal medi­cines, public health educa­tion, public health inspec­tions, and remuner­ation for public health per­sonnel.

3) *Agriculture and Food Secu­rity*: To be directly­ responsible for advising and represent­ing the Republican president on­ matters and issu­es­ pertaining to agricultural devel­opment, long-term food secu­rity, agricul­tural incen­tives, agri­businesses, agricul­tural resea­rch centers, irriga­tion sche­mes, and the food requirements of unemployed citizens and
disadvantaged children.

4) *Finance and Reve­nue*: To be directly responsi­ble for advising and represent­ing the Republican president on financial matters and mone­tary issues; the stock market, national debt manage­ment and exter­nal debt reso­lution; manage­ment of gove­rnment-owned enter­pris­es; and revenue genera­tion through taxation, cust­oms and excise duties, ser­vice fees or charges, and postal services.

5) *Commerce and Indus­try*: To be dire­ctly­ responsible for advising and represent­ing the Republican president on matters and issues concerning trade and industriali­zat­ion, tourism, min­ing, business and invest­ment pro­motion, imports and exports, trade rela­tions, regi­stra­tion of foreign compa­nies, and re­search and de­velop­ment (R&D) support to local manufac­tur­ers.

6) *Defence and Securi­ty*: To b­e directly responsi­ble for ad­vising and represent­ing the Republican president on matters and issues concerning the following: nati­onal defence and security (inc­luding matters and issues relating to the training, equip­ment, remuner­ation for defence and secu­rity per­sonnel); and fire-arm control and registra­tion.

7) *Works, Supply and Transport*: To be directly res­ponsi­ble for advising and rep­resenting the Republican president on­ matters and issues rela­ting to the follo­wing: utili­zation and man­agement of national­ly own­ed pieces of land; provi­sion and maintenance of vital infrastructure nationwide, includ­ing an effi­cient and inter-modal network of ground and air trans­porta­tion; devel­op­ment of “mallea­ble” stret­ches of the Kafue, Zam­bezi, Luan­gwa, and other sizable pere­nnial rivers for water trans­por­tation; and procure­ment and distribu­tion of govern­ment su­pplies; and construc­tion, renova­tion and mainte­nance of gove­rnment facili­ties and properties.

8) *Justice and Immigration*: To be directly respon­sible for advising and rep­resenting the Republican president on­ legal mat­ters, the protection of citi­zens’ rights and free­doms, legal aid, title deeds, national regi­stration, pass­ports and immi­gra­tion, citi­zenship and naturali­zation, work permits, treaties and agree­ments with other coun­tries, intellec­tual pro­perty rights, and remunera­tion for judicial personnel and sup­port staff.

9) *Culture and Community Services*: To b­e directly responsible for advising and represent­ing the Republican president on issues and matters relating to the following: preser­va­tion of our national trea­sures (inc­luding national monume­nts, museums, his­torical sites, and cher­ished cultural and family va­lues); promo­tion of tradi­tion­al music and cul­ture-relat­ed crafts; nati­o­nal emer­gen­cies; national unity and patriotism; religious harmony; national cere­mo­nies and festi­vals; the operations of civil police and prisons; and issues relating to wom­en, children, disabled citizens, and retirees and the aged.

10) *Foreign Affairs*: To be direc­tly responsi­ble for advis­ing and representing the Republican president on issues and matters con­cerning fore­ign poli­tical relations; consul­ar affairs and servic­es; profiles of foreign countries; services and vital infor­mation to Zambi­ans in, or travelling to, foreign count­ries; and publicizing of Zambian society abroad.

The Execu­tive branch of the national govern­ment should be comple­mented by the work of several autono­mous gov­ern­ment agencies, as provided for in the Repu­bli­can cons­titution, including the following: the Zambia Revenue Authority; Anti-Corruption Commission; Electoral Commission of Zambia; Environmental Council of Zambia, Human Rights Commission; Central Supply and Tender Board; Drug Enforcement Agency; Zambia Development Agency; and the National Science and Technology Council.

Such agencies need to be administered by a lean ensemble of technocrats.

By and large, civil servants in government ministries that would be abolished or merged would need to be encouraged to seek early retirement with full benefits. Professional and skilled civil servants should be re-deployed in the new government ministries and agencies.

For example, professional and skilled civil servants in the current ministries of Science and Technology and Sports and Youth Development would be re-deployed in the contemplated Ministry of Education, Training and Sport. Those in the ministries of Mines and Mineral Development and Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources should be re-deployed in the new Ministry of Commerce and Industry. And so forth.

The government would need to make an earnest effort to take good care of each and every civil servant who would be affected by the contemplated changes in the size and functions of the executive branch of our national government.

A lot of money, buildings, automobiles and other assets would be saved by cutting the number of Cabinet-level portfolios by half, abolition of the position of Deputy Minister, abolition of the position of District Commissioner, and cutting the size of the foreign service.

——————————————-

*Bibliography*

Amoako, KingsleyY., “Amoako’s Africa Diary: Why Good Governance Is Vital,” http://www.amoako.typepad.com/<https://email.regis.edu/OWA/redir.aspx?C=53b78c76b9dc4fcfa979ebccbee60a9c&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.amoako.typepad.com%2f>,
February 2004.

Anderson, James E., “Government and the Economy: What is Fundamental?” in
Samuels, Warren J., editor, *Fundamentals of the Economic Role of Government
* (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989).

Barro, Robert J., *Determinants of Economic Growth: A Cross Section
Empirical Study*, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Evergreen Freedom Foundation, “Determining Government’s Core Functions,”
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January 2003.

Folster, Stefan and Henrekson, Magnus, “Growth Effects of Government
Expenditure and Taxation in Rich Countries,” *European Economic Review
45*(2001).

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Relationship,” *Public Choice 56* (1988): 193-200.

Gwartney, James *et al*, “The Size and Functions of Government and Economic
Growth,” http://www.house.gov/jec/<https://email.regis.edu/OWA/redir.aspx?C=53b78c76b9dc4fcfa979ebccbee60a9c&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.house.gov%2fjec%2f>,
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Hart, Graham, “The True Functions of Government,” Geologist Education
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______, “Restrictions of Government Functions is Essential for a Free and
Prosperous Society,” Georgist Education Association, Inc. of Western
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Smith, David, “The Effects of Public Spending and Taxes on Economic Growth,”
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May 19, 2004.

Tanzi, Vito and Ludger Schuknecht, “Can Small Governments Secure Economic
and Social Well-Being?” in Grubel, Herbert, editor, *How to Use the Fiscal
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______, *Public Spending in the 20th Century: A Global
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______, *Can Africa Claim the 21st Century?* (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000).

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