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Implementing decentralized local governance: a treacherous road with potholes, detours, and road closures

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  • Shah, Anwar
  • Thompson, Theresa

Abstract

During the past two decades, a silent revolution in public sector governance has swept across the globe aiming to move decision making for local public services closer to the people. The countries embracing and adapting to this silent revolution have had diverse motives and followed even more diverse approaches. This paper attempts to present a stylized view of the motivations and approaches used to strengthen local governance. The quest forthe right balance, i.e. appropriate division of powers among different levels of government, is not always the primary reason for decentralizing. There is evidence that the decentralization decision may have more to do with short-term political considerations than the long-run benefits of decentralization. To take stock of progress worldwide, we take a comparative look at developments in political, fiscal and administrative decentralization for a selected group of countries. Most of the decentralization literature deals with normative issues regarding the assignment of responsibilities among different levels of government and the design of fiscal transfers. The process of decentralization has not received the attention it deserves as the best laid plans can fail due to implementation difficulties. We revisit major controversies regarding preferred approaches to obtaining a successful outcome. Key approaches examined are big push versus small steps; bottom up vs. top down; and uniform vs. asymmetric decentralization. Finally, Indonesia's 1999 big bang decentralization program is evaluated. The program should be commended for its achievements over a short period of time, however incentives are lacking for local governments to be accountable and responsive to their residents.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3353
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ehdaie, Jaber, 1994. "Fiscal decentralization and the size of the government : an extension with evidence from cross-country data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1387, The World Bank.
    2. Shah, Anwar, 2004. "Fiscal decentralization in developing and transition economies: progress, problems, and the promise," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3282, The World Bank.
    3. Roy Bahl, 1999. "Implementation Rules For Fiscal Decentralization," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper9803, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    4. World Bank, 2003. "Decentralizing Indonesia : A Regional Public Expenditure Review Overview Report," World Bank Other Operational Studies 14632, The World Bank.
    5. Brodjonegoro, Bambang & Asanuma, Shinji, 2000. "Regional Autonomy and Fiscal Decentralization in Democratic Indonesia," Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 41(2), pages 111-122, December.
    6. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    7. 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.
    8. Chaudry-Shah, Anwar, 1988. " Capitalization and the Theory of Local Public Finance: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(3), pages 209-243.
    9. Anwar Shah, 1999. "Governing for Results in a Globalised and Localised World," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 385-431.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Goel, Rajeev K. & Mazhar, Ummad & Nelson, Michael A. & Ram, Rati, 2017. "Different forms of decentralization and their impact on government performance: Micro-level evidence from 113 countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 171-183.
    2. Plata, Mar de, 2009. "Reunión Comisión de Descentralización y Autonomía Local Congreso FLACMA
      [Reunion Committee on Decentralization and Local Autonomy]
      ," MPRA Paper 16563, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Susan Steiner, 2005. "Decentralisation and Poverty Reduction: A Conceptual Framework for the Economic Impact," Public Economics 0508006, EconWPA.
    4. Grasa, Rafael & Camps, Arnau, 2009. "Conflict Prevention and Decentralized Governance," MPRA Paper 18877, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Nilanjan Banik, 2009. "Trade and Social Development: The case of Asia," Working Papers 6809, Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT), an initiative of UNESCAP and IDRC, Canada..
    6. Smoke, Paul, 2016. "Looking Beyond Conventional Intergovernmental Fiscal Frameworks: Principles, Realities, and Neglected Issues," ADBI Working Papers 606, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    7. Shah, Anwar, 2004. "Fiscal decentralization in developing and transition economies: progress, problems, and the promise," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3282, The World Bank.
    8. World Bank, 2011. "Who Governs Rural Russia?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27449, The World Bank.
    9. Roy Bahl & Eunice Heredia-Ortiz & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 2005. "India: Fiscal Condition of the States, International Experience,and Options for Reform: Volume 1 (2005)," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper05141, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    10. Paul Smoke, 2013. "Why Theory and Practice are Different: The Gap Between Principles and Reality in Subnational Revenue Systems," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1313, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    11. Muhammad Hussain Malik, 2008. "Fiscal decentralization for poverty reduction in Asia: opportunities, challenges and policy issues," Asia-Pacific Development Journal, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), vol. 15(2), pages 13-33, December.
    12. Stéphanie Boulenger & Isabelle Gauthier & François Vaillancourt, 2012. "Déconcentration, délégation et dévolution : avantages, inconvénients et mise en place," CIRANO Working Papers 2012s-22, CIRANO.
    13. Green, Keith, 2005. "Decentralization and good governance: The case of Indonesia," MPRA Paper 18097, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Roy Bahl & Eunice Heredia-Ortiz & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 2005. "India: Fiscal Condition of the States, International Experience,and Options for Reform: Volume 2 (2005)," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper05142, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    15. Iimi, Atsushi, 2005. "Decentralization and economic growth revisited: an empirical note," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 449-461, May.
    16. Mikami, Satoru & Furukawa, Mitsuaki, 2016. "Outsourced Technical Cooperation Reconsidered: Agency Problems in the Support of Decentralized Public Service Delivery in Sierra Leone," Working Papers 119, JICA Research Institute.
    17. Arze del Granado, F. Javier & Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge & McNab, Robert M., 2012. "Decentralized Governance and Preferences for Public Goods," MPRA Paper 42459, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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