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‘Affordability’ and the political economy of social protection in contemporary Africa

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  • Jeremy Seekings

Abstract

The ‘affordability’ of new or expanded social protection programmes depends on more than an assessment of the fiscal costs or the poverty-reducing or developmental benefits. Diverse international organizations have shown that programmes costing less than or about 1 per cent of GDP have substantial benefits, and most low-income countries have the ‘fiscal space’ for such programmes (including through increased taxation). These international organizations have generally failed to convince national policy-making elites to raise and to allocate scarce domestic resources to social protection programmes. The result is an ‘affordability gap’ between what is advocated for African countries and what these countries’ governments are willing to spend. This paper examines four cases of contestation over the ‘affordability’ of social protection reforms in Africa: Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and the semi-autonomous territory of Zanzibar. In all four cases, political elites have resisted or rejected proposals for expensive reforms, and the most expensive reforms adopted cost only 0.4 to 0.5 per cent of GDP. The governments of Zambia and Botswana generally resisted even expenditures of this magnitude. The cost ceiling for reforms is far below the estimates of international organizations, reflecting political, normative and ideological factors.

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  • Jeremy Seekings, 2017. "‘Affordability’ and the political economy of social protection in contemporary Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 043, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2017-43
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    1. Kakwani, Nanak & Subbarao, Kalanidhi, 2005. "Aging and poverty in Africa and the role of social pensions," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 32752, The World Bank.
    2. Dennis Kaputo Chiwele, 2010. "Assessing Administrative Capacity and Costs of Cash Transfer Schemes in Zambia ? Implications for Rollout," Country Study 20, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.
    3. Stevens, Christopher, 1978. "Food aid and nutrition : The case of Botswana," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 18-28, February.
    4. Reza Siregar & Lim, C.S. Vincent, 2011. "Living with Macro-financial Linkages: Policy Perspectives and Challenges for SEACEN Countries," Staff Papers, South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) Research and Training Centre, number sp79.
    5. Kalanidhi Subbarao, 2005. "Aging and Poverty in Africa and the Role of Social Pensions," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11785, The World Bank.
    6. Marito Garcia & Charity M. T. Moore, 2012. "The Cash Dividend : The Rise of Cash Transfer Programs in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2246.
    7. World Bank, 2015. "The State of Social Safety Nets 2015," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 22101.
    8. Nanak Kakwani & Kalanidhi Subbarao, 2007. "Poverty among the elderly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the role of social pensions," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(6), pages 987-1008.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeremy Seekings, 2017. "Building a conservative welfare state in Botswana," WIDER Working Paper Series 083, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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