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Decentralization and service delivery


  • Ahmad, Junaid
  • Devarajan, Shantayanan
  • Khemani, Stuti
  • Shah, Shekhar


Dissatisfied with centralized approaches to delivering local public services, a large number of countries are decentralizing responsibility for these services to lower-level, locally elected governments. The results have been mixed. The paper provides a framework for evaluating the benefits and costs, in terms of service delivery, of different approaches to decentralization, based on relationships of accountability between different actors in the delivery chain. Moving from a model of central provision to that of decentralization to local governments introduces a new relationship of accountability-between national and local policymakers-while altering existing relationships, such as that between citizens and elected politicians. Only by examining how these relationships change can we understand why decentralization can, and sometimes cannot, lead to better service delivery. In particular, the various instruments of decentralization-fiscal, administrative, regulatory, market, and financial-can affect the incentives facing service providers, even though they relate only to local policymakers. Likewise, and perhaps more significantly, the incentives facing local and national politicians can have a profound effect on the provision of local services. Finally, the process of implementing decentralization can be as important as the design of the system in influencing service delivery outcomes.

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  • Ahmad, Junaid & Devarajan, Shantayanan & Khemani, Stuti & Shah, Shekhar, 2005. "Decentralization and service delivery," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3603, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3603

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    2. Gonçalves, Sónia, 2014. "The Effects of Participatory Budgeting on Municipal Expenditures and Infant Mortality in Brazil," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 94-110.
    3. Sara Giannozzi & Asmeen Khan, 2013. "Strengthening Governance of Social Safety Nets in ASEAN," World Bank Other Operational Studies 16722, The World Bank.
    4. Cheng, Yuk-Shing & Chung, Kim-Sau, 2013. "Too many mothers-in-law?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 69-76.
    5. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Narayan, Ambar & Dasgupta, Basab & Kaiser, Kai, 2011. "Electoral accountability, fiscal decentralization and service delivery in Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5614, The World Bank.
    6. Ahmad Zafarullah Abdul Jalil & Mukaramah Harun & Siti Hadijah Che Mat, 2012. "Macroeconomic Instability and Fiscal Decentralization: An Empirical Analysis," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2012(2), pages 150-165.
    7. Giorgio Brosio & Ehtisham Ahmad & Maria Gonzalez, 2006. "Uganda; Managing More Effective Decentralization," IMF Working Papers 06/279, International Monetary Fund.
    8. World Bank, 2008. "Guinea - Decentralization in Guinea : Strengthening Accountability for Better Service Delivery," World Bank Other Operational Studies 7891, The World Bank.
    9. World Bank, 2007. "Local Government Discretion and Accountability : A Local Governance Framework," World Bank Other Operational Studies 7859, The World Bank.
    10. Daniel Benitez & Antonio Estache & Tina Soreide, 2010. "Dealing with Politics for Money and Power in Infrastructure," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2010-031, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    11. Elizabeth M. King & Peter F. Orazem & Elizabeth M. Paterno, 2016. "Promotion with and without Learning: Effects on Student Enrollment and Dropout Behavior," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 30(3), pages 580-602.
    12. Vásquez, William F., 2011. "Household preferences and governance of water services: A hedonic analysis from rural Guatemala," IFPRI discussion papers 1152, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    13. Independent Evaluation Group, 2010. "Water and Development : An Evaluation of World Bank Support, 1997-2007, Volume 1," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2485, March.
    14. Dasgupta, Basab & Narayan, Ambar & Skoufias, Emmanuel, 2009. "Measuring the quality of education and health services : the use of perception data from Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5033, The World Bank.
    15. Fossati, Diego, 2016. "Beyond “Good Governance”: The Multi-level Politics of Health Insurance for the Poor in Indonesia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 291-306.
    16. Abdul Jalil, Ahmad Zafarullah, 2009. "Decentralization, Subnational Governments' Behaviour and Macroeconomic Instability: The Case of Malaysia," MPRA Paper 19071, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Fabio Sánchez, 2006. "Descentralización Y Progreso En El Acceso A Los Servicios Sociales De Educación, Salud Y Agua Y Alcantarillado," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002287, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    18. Baltusnikiene, Jurate, 2009. "Viešojo valdymo sistemos decentralizacija: turinys, pranašumai ir trūkumai
      [The decentralization of public management systems]
      ," MPRA Paper 16561, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    Public Sector Economics&Finance; National Governance; Banks&Banking Reform; Municipal Financial Management; Governance Indicators;

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