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The effects of decentralisation on public investment: evidence and four lessons from Bolivia and Colombia

Faguet, Jean-Paul (2005) The effects of decentralisation on public investment: evidence and four lessons from Bolivia and Colombia. Crisis States Research Centre working papers series 1, 62. Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Identification Number: 62


Hundreds of studies have failed to establish the effects of decentralisation on a number of important policy goals. This paper examines the cases of Bolivia and Colombia to explore decentralisation’s effects on government responsiveness and poverty-orientation. I first summarize economic data on the effects of decentralisation in each. In Bolivia, decentralisation made government more responsive by re-directing public investment to areas of greatest need. In Colombia, municipalities increased investment significantly as decentralisation deepened, while running costs fell. In both countries, investment shifted from economic production and infrastructure to social services and human capital formation. Resources were rebalanced in favour of poorer districts. The contrast between the two also highlights four important lessons. In order for decentralisation to work well, (i) local democracy must be free, fair, transparent and competitive; (ii) sub-national governments must face hard budget constraints; (iii) central government must be scaled back; and (iv) significant tax-raising powers must be devolved to the periphery. Where all four conditions obtain, decentralising resources and political authority can generate real accountability where none existed before, and improve the quality of government a society achieves.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2005 Jean-Paul Faguet
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Sets: Research centres and groups > Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD)
Departments > International Development
Research centres and groups > Crisis States Research Centre
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2007
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2010 08:42

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