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The Role of Government in Independent Zambia

We should be proud that at 47 years of age, our beloved country has continued to be a land of lasting peace and stability. We should, therefore, make an earnest effort to build on Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda’s concept of “One Zambia, One Nation” in order to create a society in which political, ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious diversity is genuinely appreciated, tolerated and celebrated.


In this Press Release, I wish to share my views concerning the role of government in independent Zambia. In this endeavor, let us first briefly examine a point of view advocated by the founders of the free enter­prise ideology, that a government should have very limited functions.


In their view, “That government is best which governs least.” Essen­tial­ly, they advocated for a govern­ment whose functions are limited to the following: protecting private property, providing for public safety and security, enforc­ing business and other forms of contracts among individu­als and/or institutions, inducing (rather than perform­ing) commer­cial and industrial activities, and, among other things, facilitating the provi­sion of quality educa­tion and health care.


There are, however, many factors which may lead to an increase in the functions of a country’s national gov­ernment, such as the follow­ing: increases in the country’s popula­tion, an unprecedented number of demands by vari­ous interest groups for gov­ern­ment involvement in ad­dressing their needs, and, among other things, problems brought about by a multitude of hu­man-induced and natural calamities.


There is no doubt that these and other factors can put pressure on a government to expand existing public servic­es and facilities and/or to introduce new ones. Franklin D. Roosevelt, United States president between 1933 and 1945, must have had these and/or other similar kinds of factors in mind when he said: “As new conditions and prob­lems arise beyond the power of men and women to meet as individu­als, it becomes the duty of … govern­ment[s] … to find new remedies with which to meet them.”


Nevertheless, the proper governmental role in a free-market economy, as Michael E. Porter once advised in an article entitled “The Competitive Advantage of Nations,” which appeared in the Harvard Business Review of March-April 1990, should be that of serving as “a catalyst and challenger … to encourage—or even push—companies to raise their aspirations and move to higher levels of competitive perfor­man­ce.”


42nd President of the United States of America, Mr. William J. Clinton, espoused this point of view in general terms when he stipulated his Administrati­on’s desire in the State of the Union Address of January 27, 1998 thus: “[We need to] build a govern­ment that [func­tions as] … a catalyst for new ideas, and, most of all, a govern­ment that gives … people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives.”


In serving the business commu­ni­ty and other segments of society as a “catalyst and challenger,” a gov­ernment needs to provide adequately for various kinds of guarantees, inducements and essential services and facilities, such as the following:


1) A well‑developed transportation infrastructure and ad­e­quate tran­sporta­tion services to industrial, com­mercial, and residential areas to ease or facilitate the distri­bution of production inputs and finished products;


2) Adequate public ser­vices (including police protec­tion, fire protec­tion, public utilities, and decent housing), as well as telecommunica­tions, educa­tion­al, vocation­al, health, and recreational facili­ties;


3) Equitable sales, corpo­rate, and other taxes, as well as tax conces­sions and induce­ments that are more attractive than those in alterna­tive coun­tries or regions which inves­tors are likely to consider for invest­ment;


4) Political and civic leaders who are fair and honest in their dealings with private business institutions, and stable econom­ic policies (inc­luding a formal assurance against nationalisation and/or expropria­tion of privately owned business undertakings by the national govern­ment);


5) Political and civic leaders who are genuine and resolute in their fight against the scourge of corruption in governmental and non-governmental settings;


6) Less bureaucratic licensing, import, export, and other procedures, and ade­quate information about in­vest­ment and marketing prob­lems and opportu­nities in the various sectors of a coun­try’s econo­my and in cross-border markets;


7) A system of justice that is fair, impartial and independent in both word and deed; and


8) A social safety net designed to adequately cater to the needs of economically disadvantaged members of society that is not subject to political meddling or manipulation.


These inducements, ser­vices, facilities, and guarantees, among a host of other things, can enable economic units, for example, to operate more efficiently and eventually deliver economic and social outputs to society at reason­able costs and prices.


As Alassane Ouattara (current president of Ivory Coast) once advised in an article entitled “Africa: An Agenda for the 21st Century,” which appeared in Volume 36/Number 1 of Finance and Development of March 1999, therefore, there is an urgent need for national leaders to re-define the roles of their governments away from direct involvement in commercial and industrial activities toward the pro­vision of inducements, guarantees and essential public services and facilities to their primary stakeholders.


Given the many positive changes currently being introduced by the Patriotic Front administration, our beloved country seems to be destined for a brighter future. Together, we can realize the benefits of independence, democracy and economic liberalization, and we can succeed in our quest to create a more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, more egalitarian, and more environmentally sustainable society.

One Comment

  1. Manase Manase May 12, 2012

    Mr Kyambalesa,

    Is it possible for you to highlight to the readers exactly what the PF government has done or is doing that will take us to that bright future you are talking about. From what I see, the PF government is doing the exact opposite of what you are suggesting in your article…Are you a PF sympathiser?

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