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Decentralization Dilemma: Measuring the Degree and Evaluating the Outcomes

Sharma, Chanchal Kumar (2004): Decentralization Dilemma: Measuring the Degree and Evaluating the Outcomes. Published in: Indian Journal of Political Science , Vol. Vol. (, No. No. (1) (March 2006): pp. 49-64.

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Abstract

Though decentralization for past one and half decade or so has become the most favoured policy priority among the policy makers yet the countries around the world differ dramatically in the degree of decentralization that is accommodated. While diversity in degree of decentralization across the world is a fact yet there is no consensus in the empirical literature over the questions like ‘which country is more decentralized?’ This is because decentralization is defined and measured differently in different studies. In fact, a true assessment of the degree of decentralization in a country can be made only if a comprehensive approach is adopted and rather than trying to simplify the syndrome of characteristics into the single dimension of autonomy, interrelationships of various dimensions of decentralization are taken into account. Thus it is to be realized that there is no simple one dimensional, quantifiable index of degree of decentralization in a given country. As there is wide diversity in the studies on degree of decentralization so is the case with the literature on outcomes of it. Outcome varies not only because decentralization can appear in various forms and combinations across countries but also because different instruments may have very different effects in different ccircumstances. Thus arriving at the precise definition of decentralization and associating it with particular outcomes is neither possible nor desirable for the simple reason that generalization of any kind can create pitfalls that can obscure rather than clarify the facts. What is more important is the need for a strictly contextual yet comprehensive approach while going beyond the blunt measures like expenditure decentralization and taking politics and institutional arrangements of the specific case under investigation also into account.

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