IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Striking a Balance: Centralised and Decentralised Decisions in Government

Listed author(s):
Registered author(s):

    This paper identifies factors to be looked at when considering the extent to which decisions within government should be centralised or decentralised. In practice, the solution is almost always likely to involve a balance between centralised and decentralised decision-making. Nevertheless there are a number of common factors that are generally applicable to questions of centralisation and decentralisation. This paper identifies those factors in order to provide some guidance for decisions regarding the location of decision rights. Rather than being prescriptive, the paper simply presents the relevant issues for consideration. Centralisation (or decentralisation) is a complex and multi-dimensional issue. It is partly for this reason that the paper does not suggest any specific solutions. The solution in any particular case will involve tradeoffs between the factors identified in the paper as well as value judgements regarding the ranking of the various factors. In determining the appropriate balance between centralised and decentralised decisions, various factors are in tension. Centralisation can help ensure uniform and consistent standards, minimise inequalities, avoid the duplication of services, allow for the achievement of economies of scale, and increase coherence and coordination. Decentralisation, on the other hand, can help enhance local autonomy and empowerment, encourage customisation and innovation, and increase participation. Economic, social, managerial and constitutional perspectives offer a number of theoretical frameworks that are useful in considering issues of centralisation/ decentralisation. This paper draws together ideas from across these perspectives. It concludes that the solution is likely to be characterised by a “tight/loose” pattern whereby there is “tight” or centralised control over the major objectives that is then joined by “loose” or decentralised discretion over the ways in which those objectives are achieved to varying degrees.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by New Zealand Treasury in its series Treasury Working Paper Series with number 02/15.

    in new window

    Length: 22 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2002
    Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:02/15
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    New Zealand Treasury, PO Box 3724, Wellington, New Zealand

    Phone: +64-4-472 2733
    Fax: +64-4-473 0982
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Kevin Guerin, 2002. "Subsidiarity: Implications for New Zealand," Treasury Working Paper Series 02/03, New Zealand Treasury.
    2. Suzi Kerr & Megan Claridge & Dominic Milicich, "undated". "Devolution and the New Zealand Resource Management Act," Treasury Working Paper Series 98/07, New Zealand Treasury.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:02/15. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Web and Publishing Team, The Treasury)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.