Researching the politics of development

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The challenge of sustaining a professional civil service amidst shifting political coalitions: The case of the Ministry of Finance in Zambia, 1991-2018

Pockets of Effectiveness Working Paper 6
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Marja Hinfelaar and Justine Sichone
Zambia experienced a decade of strong economic growth from 2004 to 2014, averaging 7.4 percent a year. This growth has been linked, first and foremost, to the rise of copper prices and international debt relief, but also to the relatively high bureaucratic performance under President Mwanawasa’s presidency. This era was preceded by sweeping and controversial reforms that led to the privatisation of state-owned companies and the mining industry and the reduction and reform of the civil service. Both periods saw strong-minded leaders in the Ministry of Finance, who enjoyed support from State House, a prerequisite for the functioning of the Ministry. The productive cooperation between President Mwanawasa and Minister of Finance Ng’andu Magande (2003-2008) was not sustained for very long. The bureaucratic decline and political direction from State House from 2011 onwards expressed itself in a weakening of professionalism and loss of sense of direction within the Ministry of Finance. It has also resulted in a decrease in economic growth, despite sustained copper prices, and a growing debt crisis. National and international political settlements and ministerial leadership are determining factors in the functioning of Zambia’s Ministry of Finance.