CSRC Working Paper 78

'The Political Economy of Taxation and State Resilience in Zambia since 1990'
Working Paper No : 78 (series 2)
Author: Jonathan DiJohn
Date : August 2010

This paper examines the evolution of the Zambian tax system with two aims. First, it identifies how patterns of taxation contribute to state capacity, and in particular state resilience. This follows a long line of research that links state formation and consolidation to the capacity of the state to tax (Schumpeter 1918 [1954]; Tilly 1990; Brewer 1990). Second, it explores the political economy of taxation, and in particular the relationship between elite bargains and patterns of taxation. While there has been considerable work on the politics of taxation (Lieberman 2003; Brautigam et al. 2008), much of this literature ignores how processes of maintaining political stability affect taxation capacity and patterns. It has been argued elsewhere that elite bargains have been central to the maintenance of political stability in Zambia (Lindemann 2009; Di John 2010). The main aim here will be to suggest how taxation reflects the nature of elite bargains and, in turn, how the dynamics of elite bargains affect tax patterns and capacity. This type of analysis moves well beyond traditional economic and administrative approaches, which treat taxation as a technical exercise in optimal policy and institutional design, devoid of political economy considerations (Newberry and Stern 1987; Burgess and Stern 1993).

The author is an Associate Fellow with the Crisis States Research Centre and a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS.