Social protection policy reform in Zambia during the Sata presidency, 2011-2014
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The election of Michael Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) party in 2011 led to the expansion of social cash transfers (SCTs) in Zambia, with the state taking over primary financial responsibility from foreign aid donors. Public discontent towards the liberal (or neoliberal) economic policies of the former ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), resulted in the resonance of populist strategies in urban centres and increased support towards interventionist policies. Sata and the PF capitalised on these demands by successfully using a populist electoral strategy that included “branding” themselves as pro-poor. In government, the PF shifted the emphasis of public policy from agriculture subsidies (which had been preferred by the MMD) to cash transfers and related social protection programmes. The government completed and published the country’s first National Social Protection Policy. This shift in policy was driven by the diffusion of ideas from donors through an influential “social democratic” faction within the PF. These ideas meshed with the PF’s strategic interests, because of popular support for statist policies among both the PF’s existing supporters (in urban areas and the north of the country) as well as prospective supporters in other rural areas who might be attracted away from other parties. Yet, a decision towards the end of Sata’s presidency to significantly increase spending on farm input subsidies presented a shift from the earlier programmatic reforms to a continuation of the forms of patronage that persisted under previous governments.