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Does decentralization increase responsiveness to local needs? - evidence from Bolivia

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  • Faguet, Jean-Paul

Abstract

Significant changes in public investment patterns - in both the sectoral uses of funds, and their geographic distribution - emerged after Bolivia devolved substantial resources from central agencies, to municipalities in 1994. By far the most important determinant of these changes are objective indicators of social need (for example, education investment rises where illiteracy is higher). Indicators of institutional capacity, and social organization are less important. Empirical tests using a unique database show that investment changed significantly in education, agriculture, urban development, water management, water and sanitation, and possibly health. These results are robust, and insensitive to specification. As the smallest, poorest municipalities invested newly devolved public funds in their highest priority projects, investment showed a strong, positive relationship with need in agriculture, and the social sectors. In sectors where decentralization did not bring about changes, the central government had invested little before a994, and the local government continued to invest little afterward. These findings are consistent with a model of public investment, in which local government's superior knowledge of local needs, dominates the central government's technical, and organizational advantage in the provision of public services.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2516.

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Date of creation: 31 Jan 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2516

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Keywords: National Governance; Economic Theory&Research; Banks&Banking Reform; Municipal Financial Management; Environmental Economics&Policies;

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  1. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Goodman, Robert P, 1973. "Private Demands for Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 280-96, June.
  2. Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1987. "The economics of the local public sector," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 11, pages 571-645 Elsevier.
  3. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1989. "Public Provision Of Private Goods And The Redistribution Of Income," Papers 36, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  4. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  5. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1999. "Centralized versus Decentralized Provision of Local Public Goods: A Political Economy Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices? Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 769-98, August.
  7. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1992. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote Seeking, Tax Setting and Yardstick Competition," NBER Working Papers 4041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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