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Decentralization and the provision of public services : framework and implementation

  • Kim, Aehyung
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    This paper discusses decentralization (administrative, fiscal and political) of government in public service provision. It aims to facilitate understanding among practitioners, policy makers, and scholars about what decentralization entails in practice compared to theory. A review of the empirical literature and experience of decentralization is presented. The paper highlights issues that policy makers in developing and transitional countries should be aware of when reforming government, considering their unique political and economic environment. The author argues that decentralization produces efficiency gains stemming from inter-jurisdictional competition, enhanced checks and balances over the government through voting at the subnational level, and informational advantages due to proximity to citizens. By contrast, arguments against decentralization includethe risk of an increased level of corruption, coordination problems stemming from multiple layers of government, low capacity of subnational government, and unproductive inter-jurisdictional competition. Decentralization itself does not render increased government effectiveness in public service provision. Instead, the effectiveness of government largely depends on the quality of human capital and institutions.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4503.

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    Date of creation: 01 Feb 2008
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4503
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    1. Boadway, Robin & Roberts, Sandra & Shah, Anwar, 1994. "The reform of fiscal systems in developing and emerging market economies : a federalism perspective," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1259, The World Bank.
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    13. Olson, Mancur, Jr, 1969. "The Principle of "Fiscal Equivalence": The Division of Responsibilities among Different Levels of Government," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 479-87, May.
    14. Bahl, Roy & Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge, 2006. "Sequencing fiscal decentralization," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3914, The World Bank.
    15. Pranab Bardhan, 2002. "Decentralization of Governance and Development," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 185-205, Fall.
    16. Ebel, Robert D. & Yilmaz, Serdar, 2002. "On the measurement and impact of fiscal decentralization," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2809, The World Bank.
    17. Jonathan Rodden, 2000. "Decentralization and the Challenge of Hard Budget Constraints," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11426, The World Bank.
    18. Alan H. Peters & Peter S. Fisher, 2002. "State Enterprise Zone Programs: Have They Worked?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number sezp, April.
    19. Mariano Tommasi, 2002. "Federalism in Argentina and the Reforms of the 1990s," Working Papers 48, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised May 2002.
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