Resurrecting the Vestiges of a Developmental State in Malawi? Reflections and Lessons from the 2005/2006 Fertilizer Subsidy Programme.


This paper explores how the experiences leading to the adoption and successful implementation of the 2005/2006 fertilizer subsidy programme can be exploited as the basis for churning out a viable framework for a developmental state in Malawi broadly understood as the state that seriously attempts to deploy its administrative and political resources to the task of economic development. This is inspired by the fact that the success of the 2005/2006 fertilizer subsidy programme is widely orchestrated as the most significant policy achievement of the government since the advent of a democratic political dispensation over a decade ago, especially in view of the fact that the programme was implemented against the advice of a whole gamut of technical experts and development partners. The huge paradox, however, is that the experience with the democratic political dispensation on the development front has been generally disappointing. Instead of facilitating tremendous transformation from conditions of abject poverty to prosperity, the state has found itself presiding over a period of rampant economic decay and the progressive weakening of the state machinery to spearhead development relative to the authoritarian one-party era. Malawi's Human Development Index (HDI) ranking has tumbled from 138 (out of 178 nations) in 1990 to 166 in 2006. This entails a steady decline in health care delivery, education, economic growth and general living standards, characterized until very recently, by widespread incidences and episodes of severe hunger at household level.


Chinsinga, B. Paper presented at the 2007 Guy Mhone Memorial Conference on Development: Public Sector Reforms in Africa: Retrospect and Prospect, 22-24 August 2007, Zomba, Malawi. (2007) 24 pp. [Also published as FAC Research Paper 7]

Published 1 January 2007