Decentralisation is one of the most popular and most proven ways to govern a country. In this respect the world practice knows many examples of decentralised countries where the social features and issues are likely to be solved more effectively owing to the dispersal of the state authority. The theme of decentralisation as the way to develop countries and lead them toward positive outcomes is recurring now. The paper suggests a scope of different important fields of state regulations which highlight the value of decentralisation.
Insofar, the question is that this topic is based more on the examples of developing countries where the lack of constructive authority props up against the lack of follow up. It is meant here that the bottom-to-top approach is at stake, and it is a responsibility of a researcher to either prove the value of political and administrative (structural) decentralisation or not. Decentralisation is discussed in the paper through the evaluation of its impacts on public services in different Latin American countries and in some other countries of the world as well.
Thereupon, a weighed position is determined in the research in order to constitute pros and cons of decentralisation supported by real facts gathered from peer-reviewed articles. Bringing to notice decades of developmental changes in different countries of the world, it is vital to state that decentralisation results in better development outcomes. Development planning is necessary for the strategy of further growth in a definite country.
This is why it is no surprise that due to some sociological and political ideas stated by Marxists and, perhaps, constructivists long before most of the countries that accepted such ideals have reached out positive results in their overall performance. First of all, governmental reforms in turning the economy toward more reliance on the local governments are beyond disagreement. There are four types of decentralisation to be provided in a country: administrative (deconcentration and delegation), fiscal, political, and market decentralisation (Fritzen & Lim, 2006).
The discussion in the paper contemplates mostly the three of them, i. e. administrative, fiscal, and political. Administrative decentralisation is considered to be the most valued among a set of developing countries in terms of increasing the functionality and efficiency of public sector and enhancing capacity development as well (Furtado, 2001). This notion of strategic changes in the economies suffering from such negative effects as corruption and inapproachability of the central power at the local level is more than just significant.
It goes without saying that the main prospects relied on while approaching decentralization of power in the developing countries are to reduce poverty and to improve public services. Such an influence on the development planning should be understood empirically based on the current world practice in this sector of political implementation. However, it may happen that the main aid from donor countries to developing countries comes down solely to supporting these countries materially. It is, of course, a possible solution, but it does not embrace the particularities of a country’s human and natural potential (resources).
In this respect United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lays more emphasis on “the need to situate institutions and individuals within their appropriate systems and strategic management contexts” (Furtado, 2001, p. 3). Thus, a country’s capacity development should go hand in hand with the national perspectives for the current and the next fiscal year. To say more, both political and administrative decentralisation should take place in order to respond to local communities and officials. On the other hand, fiscal decentralisation should be taken into consideration.
There is a direct link between political governance and local development as applied to the success of a fiscal decentralization. The report on such theme by UNDP (2005) presupposes the following: “A well-designed fiscal decentralization reform will fail (and the anticipated benefits and increased efficiency will fail to materialize) if the appropriate governance mechanisms are not in place for local accountability” (UNDP, 2005, p. 18). This is why it is vital to take a glance at concrete examples where political decentralisation is in evidence.
Before responding to the examples of some countries, it is significant to highlight the main causes of poverty and inability of governments to solve this problem. First, it touches upon the educational development in the rural areas. Second, it contemplates the governmental investment into the most strategically important sectors of public (community) services. In this respect the remarkable examples of two Latin American countries, Bolivia and Colombia, take place. The four lessons which were taught on the example of both Bolivia and Colombia in their urge for decentralisation are as follows:
1. Local democracy must be free, fair, transparent and competitive; 2. Sub-national governments must face hard budget constraints; 3. Central government must be scaled back; 4. Significant tax-raising powers must be devolved to the periphery (Faguet, The Effects of Decentralisation on Public Investment: Evidence and Four Lessons from Bolivia and Colombia, 2005, p. 1). Bolivia was a very poor country after the revolution, and there was no concrete mechanism for governing the country.
In this respect the administrative division into municipalities helped the officials take a look at how it was better to maintain a change. The racial attitudes toward indigenous population in the rural areas could not be solved pragmatically. Thus, the country was at the edge of strategic decision-making process coming from the highest echelons of power. The policy of decentralisation was an innovative breakthrough for Bolivia, but a highly centralised state with a weak national identity influenced by a diverse population blocked any attempts to grow rich (Faguet & Sanchez, 2006).
Due to the decentralisation in the governmental and administrative policies, the formerly neglected majority of municipalities took advantage of maintaining authority on the spot. In fact, Bolivia increased its benefits owing to making more politically weighed national public investment: “Before decentralization Bolivia’s three main cities took 86% of all devolved funds, while the remaining 308 municipalities divided amongst them a mere 14%. After decentralization the shares reversed to 27% and 73% respectively” (Faguet & Sanchez, 2006, p. 9).
That is the ostensive argument for stating the advantage of implementing decentralization policies in developing countries to stabilize the overall political and economical atmosphere inside the country. Decentralisation of education in Bolivia was possible due to the Popular Participation Law adopted in 1994, and which gave access for people living in municipalities to the basic education (Gropello, 1999). Colombia has its own history of making decentralisation the basic rule for the reformation of the state and administrative regulations at the local level up to the central bodies of state authority.
Getting through a three-phase process of the national development, decentralisation in Colombia helped Colombians gain more verification of country’s fiscal funds and taxation, political instruments implementation, fiscal and administrative reforms based on the appropriate reference to the law and the Constitution among municipalities (Faguet & Sanchez, 2006). It took few decades or so for Colombia to run the gamut of public services and take control of the periphery.
Nonetheless, the process of decentralization provoked a wave of higher rates of enrolment to the educational establishments (Galiani & Schargrodsky, 2001). Thus, there is a positive shift in the primary value of decentralization in supporting the national economy in terms of education. Decentralisation which took place in Bolivia proved its validity and feasibility in terms of not just using but distributing human resources across 311 municipalities (Faguet, Does decentralization increase government responsiveness to local needs? Evidence from Bolivia, 2004).
In this respect one should be accurate in estimating the way of reforms in each among Latin American countries. Educational prospects were identified as a reaction on the implementation of a dispersal of the state initiatives in municipalities. Thus, when looking at this phenomenon logically, there is no wonder in assessing a positive effect of decentralisation. As it was mentioned before, decentralisation serves as the mechanism which gives population an access to public services. Providing a set of empirical and theoretical speculations on the case of Colombia, there is plenty to talk about.
As a matter of fact, it is well known that the most needful public services for the population in any country and in Colombia, in particular, are health services and education. It was mentioned, however, that Colombian decentralisation fell into a holistic success in rates of enrolees willing to gain elementary or high education. By contrast, other studies have evidenced that financial support by local governments would gain more efficiency if local officials were more informed about the current extreme needs of communities in each among municipalities (Faguet & Sanchez, DECENTRALIZATION AND ACCESS TO SOCIAL SERVICES IN COLOMBIA, 2009).
In this respect the state power of Colombia was inclined to enlarge the share of budget financial resources increasing investment rates as opposed to running costs. The aforementioned approach as of Colombian local governments has been already imposed in Spain. In fact, this country suffered from its highly centralised political and administrative organization. The implications of decentralisation in Spain showed that the more autonomous communities isolated somehow from the influence of the central power gained more benefits in education and economic development as well (Pena, 2006).
There were only two exceptions in the overall evaluation, but they make no difference in stating the positive effect of decentralisation as applied to educational improvements in Spain. The Spanish state power and its legislative branch, in particular, did a scope of renovations to legalize the authority of local communities in order to improve the educational standards as a result. One of the notions reckons with the constitutional norms which state the following definition of power dispersal in educational sphere:
The Constitution keeps for the central government the definition of the structure of the educational system, the regulation of the requirements for obtaining, issue and standardization of academic degrees and professional qualifications and the establishment of basic rules to guarantee the unity of the Spanish educational system. The other educational competences, however, can be devolved to the regional governements (Pena, 2006, p. 8). Thus, there is no obstacle for Spanish communities related to specific administrative regions to provide educational policies which suit the preferences of the population at the localities.
In turn it facilitates the overall process of decentralising the governmental approaches in the public sector with further improvements reflected on the progress level and enrolment rates. Once again, the case of Spain manifests positive outcomes of decentralisation as referred to the educational sector of public services. In Chile, education decentralisation invigorated the process of adjusting responsibilities between the central government and the local authorities (Parry, 1997). The balance had been achieved due to a constructive subordination and delegation of primary and secondary affairs relevant to each among the administrative units.
However, the research gives grounds for stating the significance of the monitoring and financial support on the part of the central power, as a necessity which should be taken for granted (Parry, 1997). The question is that the case of Chile differs from that of Spain. Here the communities are not that independent autonomously from the central power. Thus, it is as if communities in Chile have to gain more devolution in order to sustain and improve public services at the periphery primordially established by the central power.
Insofar, the concept of devolution is the central for measuring the tools for decentralisation. In other words, decentralisation relies on devolution. In Chile as well as in other developing countries there is a need for being more informed and educated. Talking about this theme, one should bear it in mind that contemporary humanity shares the main product of the post-industrial society, namely information. Chilean process of reformation was not that easy in driving education decentralisation to masses. There were detrimental consequences from the Pinochet’s regime.
Nevertheless, as strange as it may seem, it is Pinochet who actively supported the implementation of decentralisation in education in 1980s, being even sympathetic to private education as an alternative for generally accepted public education (Parry, 1997). Further still, this dictator saw the value of inclusion of all among communities into the public life of the country when he called for “the need to decentralize responsibility, grant a greater degree of participation to the community, and to rationalize the use of public resources” (Cited in Parry, 1997, p. 214).
Coming closer to 1990s Chile along with Bolivia Colombia, Argentina, and other Latin American countries joined the democratic incentives implied into the policy of decentralisation. Getting ahead in changing the state power from autocratic to democratic, Chile reaped the benefit of decentralisation, as schools in different municipalities became accessible and attractive to parents and students. The readings of growth in enrolment rates are as follows: “In 1990, the division of enrolment between private subsidized and public schools was 35. 86% for private and 64. 14% for public” (Parry, 1997, p. 217-218).
That was a real breakthrough for the country. However, there are a number of researchers who admit problems after implementing decentralisation policies mostly among developing countries. It is quite fair to suppose that the decentralisation process is not linear or constant for countries where it serves as the main tool for reforms in public services. The main apprehensive is concerned with the fact that by decentralising the power at the local level there is a probability (and rather explicit, so to speak) of the emergence of corruption and inequity in sharing financial or human resources within communities.
On the other side, problems of a political kind stimulate some aggravations in the process of democratically positive development in decentralised countries. All in all, a scope of negative consequences as a result of decentralisation counts for the following ones: “decentralizing corruption, increased inequalities between resource-rich and resource-poor regions, failure of the central government to successfully set and enforce minimum service standards in critical areas of national priority” (Fritzen & Lim, 2006, p.
5). Along with such highly increased cases of negative execution of decentralization at local governments there is a threat to macroeconomic stability. It is all about the arrangement of and report on the expenditures and revenues in a definite municipality as referred to the central body of power (Fritzen & Lim, 2006). This is why every bean has its black, as they say. In addition the central-to-local feedbacks can encounter “barriers” on the part of the elite circles in a definite municipality.
It is another problem of decentralization dealing with a huge gap in stratification of the society: “However, decentralization can also degrade provision in the presence of positive spillovers, lack of technical capabilities by local governments, or capture of low-level administrators by local elites” (Galiani, Gertler, & Schargrodsky, Helping the Good Get Better, but Leaving the Rest Behind: How Decentralization Affects School Performance, 2004). Thus, the educational prospects and problems along with fiscal and administrative features of decentralisation have been mentioned already.
However, the focal point is that developing countries need more intrinsic governmental incentives in order to decrease the rates of poverty. This aspect of the discussion needs proper evaluation. To make it plain, decentralisation policies are largely considered with a decrease of negative impacts on the level of living in the society of a definite country. Poverty serves as an index of a country’s inability to shift the situation for better by means of appropriate reforms. In this respect it is fair to remark the increase of wages, giving more opportunities for farmers and croppers, etc.
Crook and Sverrisson (1999) narrow down these initiatives to four main approaches for governments, namely: 1. Changes in the microeconomic features. There should be a substantial and felt support of the rural workers in what they can contribute into the country’s economy. 2. Social equity. Reducing the gap between different communities according to their history, ethnicity, and culture. 3. Human development. Increasing the rates of social comfortable circumstances by decreasing detrimental effects of poverty. 4.
Spatial or inter-regional inequality. A rational distribution of the resources between economically more and less sufficient regions (Crook & Sverrisson, 1999). However, even with some positive changes due to decentralisation, Bolivia is still suffering from poverty. UNDP keeps a strict eye on the human relationships and economical prospects for decreasing the poverty rates in Bolivia. Even with the highest tempos of capacity development, Bolivia needs another set of reforms to go the way of the developed countries of the world (UNDP, 2005).
Thus, the democracy should make point of what has been done in Bolivia due to the timely constructive implementation of decentralization policies. The concept of planning development should serve as one of the basic approaches for maintaining social, economical, political, and fiscal equilibrium. Specialists from USAID as well as from UNDP work on dissecting new approaches to encourage the value of decentralization, as the way to cope with a genuinely democratic type of relationships between the central power and the periphery. The participation is necessary at all levels.
Indeed, it is participation in different spheres of the state governance that makes planning development more efficient due to the cohesiveness of all branches. Notwithstanding the type of regime in a country, an extra-ordinary value of decentralization is beyond disagreement. USAID experts interpret decentralization as a necessary state of relationships “to increase the scope of decisions, and thus incentives, available to local participants, as well as to build institutions and to encourage, structure, focus, and stabilize such participation” (Rondinelli, 1981, p. 133).
Nevertheless, based on the aforementioned examples of countries, decentralisation provides opportunities to step across new frontiers in planning development. Hence, it is about time to state that decentralization results in better development outcomes. Breaking the power down by means of its dispersal among municipalities gives more grounds for the central power to evaluate, make decisions, and verify the execution of the law, economic, and political prospects at the local level. Increasing governmental investment in public services served as an impulse for the growth of planning development in Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Spain as well.
Decentralisation is widely practised in the world’s countries. Furthermore, its significance for maintaining stabilisation mechanisms in the developing countries cannot be underestimated. It is great that during some few decades many of the developing countries under the threat of dominated ideologies could change their course along with the policies of decentralisation as the paramount approach to start with. Humanity of the twenty-first century, therefore, has many points to acquire in social, economical, and political issues as pertaining to the policy of decentralisation.
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