Many countries in Africa have governments that do not perform up to the required standards resulting in economic crises. Neo-liberals and International Financial Institutions maintain that this consequently arises from state intervention . Personally I believe state intervention is necessary for sustainable development, equitable distribution of scarce resources and eventually peace and stability. To procure all these, the state has to shoulder various developmental roles. The World Bank identified in its report on development five fundamental tasks of a government. They are as quoted by Owen Hughes: “(1) establishing a foundation of law, (2) maintaining a non-depository policy environment, including macroeconomic stability; (3) investing in basic social services and infrastructure; (4) protecting the vulnerable and (5) protecting the environment.” (2003:89) Hughes argues that these roles are not the basic roles of a minimal state but rather sees them as necessary for markets to appreciate what the government does. He goes on to identify yet another set of seven general functions of government as set out by Anderson James (1989) which include providing economic infrastructure, provision of various collective goods and services, the resolution and adjustment of group conflicts, the maintenance of competition, protection of natural resources, minimum access by individuals to the goods and services of the economy and stabilization of the economy. In this paper I will identify and discuss four developmental roles of the state as stated by Mr. Molaodi, a lecturer of Public Administration at the University of Botswana and incorporate into them Anderson’s government functions stated above.
ROLES OF THE STATE IN A DEVELOPING COUNTRY
The first role that a state in a developing country must obtain as quoted by Mr. Molaodi is the development agent role. Here the state focuses on defining national strategic goals for the development of the country. The state comes together with political parties, the executive, Non-Governmental Organizations, Ministers and other important groups of people to come up with these goals as well as how they are going to be achieved. Implementation is usually done through the bureaucracy or public servants. For example, the national condom strategy and implementation plan is carried out by the Ministry of Health in Botswana. The state as a development agent also analyzes alternatives and ranks choices on the basis of resource availability. This is to say that the state decides on what should be done first looking at the available resources and the importance of alternatives. For instance the state may decide to build a school at Bonwapitse village instead of a clinic on the basis that the clinic will need nurses and doctors whom the country of Botswana is running short of and therefore it would be better to educate children of Bonwapitse as they are the future nurses and doctors of that village. Also building a clinic is more costly than building a school. While the structure of a school is limited to classrooms and a staffroom, the clinical structure may require a male ward, female ward, dispensary unit, a delivery unit, a laboratory and many more. Therefore, the state may decide that whoever may need services of a health worker at a time where there is no clinic in Bonwapitse may visit those in surrounding areas such as Kalamare and Shoshong health posts. The state also ranks choices looking at their level of importance. For instance the state might decide to build a bridge before extending the structures of a school and extend a school before refurbishing the council offices. Under this role, the state also takes up national development planning guided by national principles and political values. This is where national development plans (NDPs) are created with the purpose of guiding the overall development of the country. NDPs contain government strategies to be followed in the...
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