Intergovernmental Transfers and Municipal Finance in Colombia
For the past fifteen years, Colombia has been engaged in a grand experiment in decentralization. Since 1986, subnational government spending has increased dramatically, as the regions have assumed greater control of health and education programs and other local services, and an increasing fraction of national revenues have been earmarked for transfer to lower-level governments. This paper examines fiscal data for a large number of Colombian municipalities for the 1985-99 period. Our first goal is to describe the effects of the transfer system on horizontal balance among municipalities. By our estimates, the fiscal capacities of Colombian municipalities differ substantially, which is a major challenge to designing an effective system of decentralization. Our second goal is to draw some inferences from the data about how the current system of transfers has affected the level of local taxation and spending, and the pattern of spending across functional categories. Our data cover a period that straddles the major reform in the allocation of municipal transfers that resulted from Law 60 in 1993. This permits a more accurate assessment of the effects of transfers than has been possible in previous research.
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