Good governance is the foundation for economic growth and stability in developing countries. A responsive and efficient government should protect its citizens and deliver such basic services as water, schools, and health care. It should also engage citizens in government.
Urban Institute experts have provided research and technical assistance on local governance in more than 70 countries around the world. The core of our work is in improving delivery and financing of public services, strengthening public management and performance measurement, encouraging civic engagement, combating corruption through accountability and increased transparency, and enhancing local governments' role in economic development.
Industrialized countries typically spend 50% or more of public sector resources to fund public services at the local level including public health services, access to drinking water, local infrastructure development, and so on. In contrast, developing economies typically dedicate a much smaller share of public resources to front-line service delivery within the local public sector. In countries like Bangladesh or Egypt, only about 20% of all public sector spending trickles down to the local level for service delivery. Dr. Jamie Boex, a Senior Research Associate, discusses the ramifications of this for international development and how The Urban Institute's Local Public Sector Initiative plays a role.
This short note provides an overview of the current and previous attempts to systematically measure -and collect data on- the scope and nature of (political, administrative and fiscal) decentralization in countries around the world. Despite the considerable quantity of scholarship devoted to the investigation of the causes and effects of decentralization, the current efforts to collect data on the various aspects of decentralization and local governance have not given rise to a single authoritative methodology. This void in the data with regard to decentralization provides policy makers and the research community with a considerably incomplete patchwork of information regarding decentralization, rather than resulting in a single, consistent and robust dataset regarding the depth and breadth of decentralization in countries around the world.
Although the Afghan Constitution provides a framework for a unitary and highly centralized public sector, the Constitution also recognizes the importance of subnational governance. The country’s policy framework for subnational governance and intergovernmental relations is contained in the Sub-National Governance Policy (SNGP) which was adopted by Cabinet in March 2010. Despite considerable efforts over the past few years by the Government and its development partners, only limited progress has been made on improving the effectiveness as well as the inclusiveness of subnational governance and service delivery. This Policy Brief argues that the primary obstacle to progress on subnational governance reforms is the absence of consensus -among government officials, policy makers, and development partners alike- on the organizational and budgetary status of subnational entities at the provincial, district and village levels.
In developing countries, through the process of decentralization, municipal officials are constrained by administrative and governing practices that reflect a highly centralized, command driven economic system that has left a lasting impact on the culture and behavior of municipal administrations. In order for these local governments to become efficient and responsive providers of local infrastructure and public services, individuals and the organizations in which they work have to be transformed from entities that are local administrators of centrally-mandated public functions -which in large part requires compliance with central government rules and responsiveness to instructions from the top- into high-performing local government organizations (HPLGOs) which are capable of proactively identifying and responding to local needs.
Bangladesh is widely considered to be one of the most centralized countries in the world. Yet in recent years, substantive reforms have taken place in support of a more decentralized public sector. Indeed, its Sixth Five Year Plan (SFYP) the national government has committed to bringing "basic public services to people's doorsteps." The government's stated policy ambition leads to a simple question: what share of public resources is currently used to fund public services "at the door step of the people"? In other words, what is the size of the local public sector in Bangladesh? Initial analysis suggests that the total size of local public sector expenditures in Bangladesh (expressed as a percentage of total public expenditures) is approximately 16.2 percent. Based on this information, the Government needs to decide whether the share of public spending that is currently being devoted to the local public sector is adequate to reach its policy objectives, or whether it should increase local public spending in the future.