Does decentralization improve accountability and service delivery?

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Decentralization has been a buzz word in the development world for a while, but disagreements remain about when and how different types of decentralization are successful in improving accountability and service delivery.  Although decentralization is often used as a monolithic concept, the term can include political, fiscal, administrative or market decentralization, and can involve varying degrees of transfer of authority and/or responsibility from the central government. 

There was an interesting discussion of decentralization on Megan McArdle’s blog in The Atlantic.  Most of the readers’ examples are from the US – but decentralization is a huge, and perhaps more crucial, issue in East Asia, where governments, the World Bank and other development partners are working to find innovative ways to improve governance and service delivery.  What do you think?  Are local governments more accountable than central governments?  Are there particular services or departments in your country that you think would be handled better by a subnational government than by the central government?


Deborah Perlman

Public sector governance

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