Social policy: Managing aspirations, leveraging resources, exploring new delivery
The challenge for social policy is to navigate the ‘triple pressure’ that East Africa faces. The first comprises citizens’ growing expectations for more and better social services delivered by the public sector. This calls for managing expectations and greater honesty in establishing priorities and in the sequencing of interventions.
The second source of pressure is a shrinking public purse due to declining aid flows coupled with the difficulty of enhancing domestic resource generation. Without changes in the structure of the economy (higher wages, increased size of economic actors, greater value addition) that generate a broad expansion of income, it is almost impossible to increase tax collection without resorting to desperate but ultimately unproductive measures such as chasing informal street vendors.
The final pressure comes from the changing roles of the private sector and civil society in the face of growing social stratification of service provision (as the rich seek private solutions leaving the poorest households to rely on ‘free’ but poor quality state services). Improving the delivery of social services so as to enhance the quality of the outcomes requires a bold conversation about the allocation of scarce resources in the most efficient (least cost) and effective (high returns) ways.
Political domain: The concept of democracy, the developmental state and the
principle of subsidiarity.
Three elements of East Africa’s political domain that collectively embody the nature of the power relationship between citizens and the state need to be considered. The first is the very concept of democracy and what it means for the inclusion and empowerment of the region’s poorest citizens.Without these two elements, ballot-box democracy is essentially useless as an instrument of change. A new social contract based on transparency and accountability is essential to restoring transformative power to the ballot box.