The Politics of Social Protection Policy Reform in Malawi, 2006-2017
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The literature on the expansion of social protection in Africa contends that domestic politics matters for policy reforms. This includes literature that argues that repeated competitive elections and changes of governmentcreate opportunities for political leadersin newly elected governments toexpand the provision of programmatic social protection.In Malawi, donor efforts to persuade the national government to expand pilot cash transfersinto a national programme were resisted by the government of Bingu wa Mutharika, arguing that cash transfers were unproductive handouts. Instead, the government supported the provision of generous input subsidies to small scale farmerswhich promoted foodproduction.His successor, Joyce Banda, promoted donor supported social protection programmes, including social cash transfers, to broaden her electoral support. Yet, her support for social protection did notguarantee electoral success in 2014. Banda’s successor, Peter Mutharika,adopted a food security brand (like his older brother before him) to win elections. Between 2014 and 2017, Mutharika’s government focused on farm inputs for small scale farmers while cash transfers remained largely donor funded.This paper demonstrates that changes of government do not necessarily lead to the provision of more social protection. Rather, changes of government between presidents and ruling coalitions matter for reforms because they provide incentives for new ruling elites to brand themselves differently on issues of redistribution in ways that enhance their ideological and electoral interests. Where the interests of ruling elitesmesh with those of donors, there is a greater incentive for the expansion of programmatic social protection interventions such as social cash transfers.
CitationSiachiwena, H. (2020) The politics of social protection policy reform in Malawi, 2006-2017, CSSR Working Paper No. 447, February 2020
Rights holder© Centre for Social Science Research, UCT, 2020
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