IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Fiscal decentralization in developing and transition economies: progress, problems, and the promise


  • Shah, Anwar


The author discusses the revolution in public sector thinking that is transforming the public sectors of developing and transition countries. Countries are reconsidering their fiscal systems and searching for the right balance between central government control and decentralized governance. Political decentralization has advanced in most countries. Subnational expenditures in developing countries as a percentage of total public expenditures have also increased over the past two decades. However, the process is far from complete. In many countries, the central government is still involved in the delivery of local services, local governments have few sources of own-revenues, local governments have limited access to borrowing for capital projects, and the design of intergovernmental transfers does neither address regional fiscal equity nor convey appropriate incentives for fiscal discipline, improved service delivery performance, and accountability to citizens. Decentralized public governance can help realign public sector incentives through greater accountability to citizens, and attenuate the"democracy deficit"caused by globalization and the role of supranational institutions and regimes. However, this requires careful examination of the entire fiscal system. Elements of a comprehensive package of fiscal system reforms would include: (a) Clarifying roles of various levels of government in public service delivery; (b) Reassigning taxing responsibilities to ensure local revenue autonomy, accountability, and efficiency without endangering an internal common market; (c) Designing fiscal transfers to ensure regional fiscal equity and to create an enabling environment for innovative and competitive service delivery; (d) Facilitating responsible credit market access to subnational governments; (e) Designing institutional arrangements for intergovernmental fiscal relations to better coordinate policies; and (f) Aligning operational capacity with the authorizing environment through the"accountability for results"framework of public management.

Suggested Citation

  • Shah, Anwar, 2004. "Fiscal decentralization in developing and transition economies: progress, problems, and the promise," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3282, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3282

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sato, Motohiro & Yamashige, Shinji, 2000. "Decentralization and Economic Development in Asian Countries: An Overview," Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 41(2), pages 77-84, December.
    2. Anwar Shah, 2014. "Fiscal federalism and macroeconomic governance : for better or for worse?," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(1), pages 200-240, May.
    3. Tugrul Gurgur & Anwar Shah, 2014. "Localization and corruption: panacea or pandora's box?," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(1), pages 109-136, May.
    4. Shah, Anwar & Thompson, Theresa, 2004. "Implementing decentralized local governance: a treacherous road with potholes, detours, and road closures," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3353, The World Bank.
    5. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
    6. Kirchgassner, Gebhard & Pommerehne, Werner W., 1996. "Tax harmonization and tax competition in the European Union: Lessons from Switzerland," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 351-371, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3282. 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: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.