PROJECTLocalizing Service Spending in Developing Countries

In January the Urban Institute completed a comparative study of health and education services in 29 developing countries, targeting the structure of spending among levels of government. The goal of this research was to take stock of how the local public sector contributes to human development goals.

Previous studies have considered contributions by elected local governments to global development objectives, but many countries use mixed systems of finance and administration to deliver public services. In these cases, the devolved authorities of local government bodies might be shared with local administrative arms of the central government, or semi-autonomous agencies chartered by the state. 

As the first study of its kind, our analysis considers not only devolved local expenditures but also deconcentrated and delegated expenditures, as well as direct support from line ministries in providing local services.

The final report was presented to the Donor Working Group on Decentralization and Local Governance (DELOG) in New York in January 2015. It builds on work supported by a host of international development partners including bilateral and multilateral donors.

Key findings:

  • Up to two-thirds of local public health and education spending is done by central ministries, not by local governments. Many previous studies of local services focused only on spending by elected local governments.
  • In places with higher proportions of localized health or education spending, there are better health and education outcomes. 
  • Local governments in many developing countries lack meaningful autonomy to deliver the services they are obligated to provide.


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Donor Working Group on Decentralization and Local Governance (DELOG)

Period of Performance

July 2013 - April 2014


Research Areas International development
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