The principle of subsidiarity, which was developed as part of Catholic social teaching, states that what individuals can accomplish on their own should not be taken from them by a higher authority.
A greater social institution must not take over the duties of subordinate organisations and deprive them of their competence. Its purpose, rather, is to intervene in subsidiary fashion—assisting the smaller individuals or institutions find the task which is beyond them.
The State is an instrument promotes human dignity, rights and development. According to the principle of subsidiarity, such functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible—as long as they can be performed adequately.
When they cannot, higher level of government must intervene. This principle goes hand in hand with participation. All people have the right to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of society and making decisions that affect their community.
The State has a big role to play in contextualising the principle of subsidiarity, which helps government and other stakeholders to know the strengths and weaknesses of the human resource at their disposal.
This principle gives zeal to the employees to exercise their potential and competence fully without any fear.
Unfortunately, in Malawi, the imperative of subsidiarity is greatly overlooked by most politicians and other influential agencies. It is quite disheartening and disempowering that some politicians and change agents are involved in everything—freezing out people who are supposed to make some decisions by law.
There is a lot of intimidation from the people who have uncurbed political power and influence in society on people that have positions in government and parasitatal bodies.
I greatly feel it is vital for people with political power and influence in society to exercise know their limits and when to intervene.
The principle of subsidiarity defines one’s functions clearly and allows the front-line and middle-level actors to exercise as much authority as possible in their area of responsibility.
The thinking that one’s political power can influence decisions at any level in government or outside government sphere is diabolical and demoralising.
Therefore, government should not only provide its employees with resources but also training to succeed. This should include topics that increase employee’s confidence, aptitude and their ability to collaborate with others in things they cannot accomplish single-handedly.
In this approach, the thinking of absorbing other people without aiding them is out of question because it kills the zeal and creativity of human resource.
The Catholic Church created the principle of subsidiarity to describe a certain approach to the problems of modern society, reflecting a broad understanding of human nature, government, social structures.
In his 1931 encyclical, Quadraqesimo anno (In the 40th Year), Pope Pius XI cast the principle as a fundamental tenet of Catholic social teaching.
He wrote: “It is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry.
“So too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by lesser and subordinate bodies. In as much as every social activity should, by its very nature, prove a help to members of the social order, it should never destroy or absorb them”
I look forward to the implementation of this principle by government at all levels. Let the people with political power and influence not absorb others, but aid them where possible.
It is my hope that this shall be part of reforms in government and private sector come May 21, 2019. na