Democracy, Decentralisation and Poverty Reduction in Malawi by ProQuest


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									                                                                Book Reviews 201

Blessings chinsinga. Democracy, Decentralisation and Poverty Reduction in
Malawi. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2007. Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrikaforschung
series, vol.15. 233 pp. Map. Tables. Figures. References. €29,80. Paper.

Blessings Chinsinga’s book examines the politics of poverty reduction
set amidst Malawi’s decentralization experience. Chinsinga challenges
the widely held belief that decentralization naturally facilitates good gov-
ernance and development. By means of data gathered from secondary
sources, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions, he captures
the pitfalls that have unhinged the much heralded policy reform process
and portrays a political and social landscape dominated by complex and
pervasive power struggles among several discordant actors. What emerges
from the study is a reform process captured by the politics of donor-driven
development in an emerging democracy. Decentralization, he argues, has
led to a series of conflicts over how society should be organized—between
the state and the citizenry, the local and the center, the government and
the donors—cast in largely zero sum terms. The book engages with the
many stakeholders in the poverty reduction process, although Chinsinga’s
primary interest lies in understanding the ways in which donor institutions
shape and transform the culture and policy environment of decentraliza-
tion and poverty reduction.
     In the first several chapters Chinsinga presents the historical and politi-
cal economy frameworks necessary for readers to contextualize Malawi’s
decentralization process. He describes the weak and underdeveloped civil
society in Malawi that has resulted from self-interested players, a culture of
bureaucratic secrecy, and the government’s tendency to deal only with apo-
litical and “friendly and predictable” civil society groups. He also empha-
sizes the links between Malawi’s deep-seated poverty and the problems with
land distribution and land tenure security. As he proceeds to examine the
specific legal and ins
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