Devolution, accountability, and service delivery : some insights from Pakistan
This paper studies the relationship between devolution, accountability, and service delivery in Pakistan. It examines the degree of accessibility of local policy-makers and the level of competition in local elections, the expenditure patterns of local governments to gauge their sector priorities, and the extent to which local governments are focused on patronage or the provision of targeted benefits to a few as opposed to providing public goods. The main findings of the paper are three-fold. First, the accessibility of policy-makers to citizens in Pakistan is unequivocally greater after devolution, and local government elections are, with some notable exceptions, as competitive as national and provincial elections. Second, local government sector priorities are heavily tilted toward the provision of physical infrastructure - specifically, roads, water and sanitation, and rural electrification - at the expense of education and health. Third, this sector prioritization is in part a dutiful response to the relatively greater citizen demands for physical infrastructure; in part a reflection of the local government electoral structure that gives primacy to village and neighborhood-specific issues, and in part a reaction to provincial initiatives in education and health that have taken the political space away from local governments in the social sectors, thereby encouraging them to focus more toward physical infrastructure.
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