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Decentralization and Accountability: The Curse of Local Underdevelopment


  • Fabiana Machado



Decentralization of provision of public services has been an important item in the agenda of developing countries. While some scholars and practitioners argue that decentralization is associated with improvements in provision due to higher accountability, others note its potential pitfalls. In particular, decentralization to local communities characterized by poverty, low levels of education, and inequality may lead to low accountability and higher susceptibility to political capture. This paper explores these dynamics empirically, taking advantage of the fact that in Brazilian municipalities primary education is provided by schools under municipal as well as under state management. The performance of these two types of school in the same municipalities is compared in terms of their levels of inputs and the efficiency of service delivery using non-parametric data envelopment analysis (DEA). The results suggest that there are indeed drawbacks to decentralization in municipalities where inequality is higher and education and political participation are lower.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabiana Machado, 2013. "Decentralization and Accountability: The Curse of Local Underdevelopment," Research Department Publications IDB-WP-397, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:idb-wp-397

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gilat Levy, 2005. "The Politics of Public Provision of Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1507-1534.
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    5. Faguet, Jean-Paul & Sánchez, Fabio, 2008. "Decentralization's Effects on Educational Outcomes in Bolivia and Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 1294-1316, July.
    6. Galiani, Sebastian & Gertler, Paul & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2008. "School decentralization: Helping the good get better, but leaving the poor behind," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2106-2120, October.
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    9. Faguet, Jean-Paul, 2004. "Does decentralization increase government responsiveness to local needs?: Evidence from Bolivia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 867-893, March.
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:443:d:69461 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sarah Feron & Harald Heinrichs & Raúl R. Cordero, 2016. "Are the Rural Electrification Efforts in the Ecuadorian Amazon Sustainable?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-22, May.
    3. Sarah Feron, 2016. "Sustainability of Off-Grid Photovoltaic Systems for Rural Electrification in Developing Countries: A Review," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(12), pages 1-26, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare

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