Complementarities in the provision of public services: Evidence from Zambia

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How can limited resources be employed most efficiently for the sake of development? In its National Development Plan, the Government of Zambia strives to establish an integrated approach to national development that coordinates development across sectors. This, however, requires understanding synergies in the provision of public services across sectors.

While the effects of specific infrastructure investments have been extensively studied in isolation, synergies between investments in different sectors are poorly understood. However, these are likely to be crucial for development and growth as Moneke (2019) shows in the context of road construction and electricity grid expansion in Ethiopia.

This study looks at synergies between the provision of health and education services in Zambia. Conducted in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and General Education, it asks to what extent the spatial distribution of public health and education services affects the spatial distribution of economic development. For this purpose, we map the construction of public health facilities and schools between 1990 and today across Zambia. This allows us to first, assess the direct effects of the availability of services on individuals’ health and education, and second, gauge the potential impact on structural transformation of the local economy. Importantly, it also allows us to examine the synergies between the provision of health and education services by comparing cohorts with more and less exposure to each of the services across space.