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Decentralization and the Limits to Poverty Reduction: Findings from Ghana


  • Gordon Crawford


Decentralization has been widely implemented throughout the developing world. Its proponents, notably international donor agencies, claim that democratic local government is more responsive to local citizens' needs, inclusive of those of the majority poor, thus resulting in poverty reduction. Yet evidence remains far from conclusive and this paper challenges such claims. After reviewing recent surveys of the linkage between decentralization and poverty reduction, this paper undertakes a case study of Ghana. Findings from primary data indicate that the impact of the District Assembly system on local poverty has been limited, at best. In seeking to explain such limits to poverty reduction, attention is focused on the national context of decentralization where structural constraints are identified, which are largely intended to maintain central government control. Such obstacles challenge some of the assumptions and expectations of decentralization advocates. It is concluded that the notion of “decentralization from above” is paradoxical, with genuine devolution of power and local poverty reduction likely to require political struggles from below.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon Crawford, 2008. "Decentralization and the Limits to Poverty Reduction: Findings from Ghana," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(2), pages 235-258.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:36:y:2008:i:2:p:235-258
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810701702002

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    Cited by:

    1. Ramírez, Juan Mauricio & Díaz, Yadira & Bedoya, Juan Guillermo, 2017. "Property Tax Revenues and Multidimensional Poverty Reduction in Colombia: A Spatial Approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 406-421.
    2. Robinson D. BoyeBandie, 2015. "The Effects of the District Assemblies Common Fund on District Assemblies Internally Generated Revenue Mobilisation in Ghana: An Analysis of the Early Years of the Fund," International Journal of Asian Social Science, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 5(9), pages 529-542, September.
    3. Heinz Jockers & Dirk Kohnert & Paul Nugent, 2009. "The Successful Ghana Election of 2008 – a Convenient Myth? Ethnicity in Ghana’s Elections Revisited," GIGA Working Paper Series 109, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    4. Badru Bukenya & Pablo Yanguas, 2013. "Building state capacity for inclusive development. The politics of public sector reform," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-025-13, BWPI, The University of Manchester.

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