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Evaluating the compatibility of economic reform with political liberalisation in poor african countries -the case of malawi

Listed author(s):
  • P. Kalonga Stambuli

    (Surrey Institute of Global Economics Research)

This paper investigates claims that fundamental policy changes aiming to disengage the state from the economy do not provide appropriate discourse for a new government in a newly democratised state. This view has a lot of support among Stalinist-Marxist scholars who believe that unmaking a welfare state simultaneously as the process of reassigning power to the people is a contradictory and politically suicidal undertaking. Based on the analysis of change in Malawi, this paper offers philosophical counter-arguments supporting the view that economic reform is a necessary condition for democratic development. The main argument is that, given that the role of political liberalisation is to enable people [previously trapped in an econo-political hegemony] to make decisions about their own lives, then economic reform is the only instrument capable of delivering the desired transformation. This is on the premise that personal freedom is a derivative of economic freedom, and that by opening up the market and unleashing popular participation in the economy, economic reform facilitates convergence of a free society and a market economy. The paper also argues that political rhetoric signalling the reversal of economic reforms as a socialist alternative has the potential to sustain a sitting reformist government in power as in the case of the reformist National Action Party (PAN) which rules in Mexico while the PRI founded in 1929 remains outside government. The paper also observes that a platform critical of economic reform is bound to ignite apprehension for potential loss of personal and economic freedoms that arose from a process of reform. However, owing to evidence that change from one party to multipartyism in Malawi was brought on largely by economic policy failure, the paper supports the argument that resource scarcity, degradation and poverty (measured by household food scarcity, social indicators, and the incidence of malnutrition) pose a major threat to democracy. Although the question of returning to autocracy in the hope that there will be economic prosperity may be outside present options, economic instability or uncertainty in the free market economy is certainly not a satisfactory recompense for emergence of new and wider freedoms.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Method and Hist of Econ Thought with number 0212001.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 12 Dec 2002
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmh:0212001
Note: Type of Document - Tex/Word; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP; pages: 29; figures: included. Published as SIGER working paper series no 2002/68
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