Munich Personal RePEc Archive

When Does decentralization deliver? The Dilemma of Design

Sharma, Chanchal Kumar (2005): When Does decentralization deliver? The Dilemma of Design. Published in: South Asian Journal of Socio-political studies (SAJOSPS) , Vol. Vol:6, No. No:1 (December 2005): pp. 38-45.

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Decentralization since early 1990s has become one of the buzzwords of the development paradigms. Among all ingredients of decentralization, the fiscal component of it has a special significance. Not surprisingly the literature unanimously recognizes that it is the regulation of intergovernmental relationships in the fiscal arena that can strike the right balance among different objectives of each level and resolve tensions between them. Thus, the fiscal decentralization is in vogue. The trend that began in 90s has only gained momentum at the turn of the century. Yet the outcome of adopting similar policies has not been uniform across the globe. Some have succeeded, some are stumbling and some others have failed. In fact, the success of decentralization depends on its design. The paper looks into various questions associated with the dilemma of designing decentralization instruments for the success of fiscal decentralization These include the question of designing the right mix of policies, the questions of sequencing and synchronization, the question of pace and that of balancing the contrasting forces of centralization and decentralization. The paper offers the insight to the policymakersthat while designing fiscal decentralization they should not try to replicate any ‘idealtype’ solution. Though the ideal types can be powerful analytical tools, yet they do not lead to solutions for specific situations Real world fiscal arrangements rarely follow the idealized model; they are loaded with historical developments and political ad hocsolutions. It is simply not realistic to start from tabula rasa. The paper emphasizes that there is no “one size fits all” type answer to decentralization question. All systems will have to work out their own style of going about decentralization and restructuring of intergovernmental relations depending on the context and conditions peculiar to their own situation. The paper also argues that any attempt towards fiscal decentralization must be firmly grounded in the basic principles of fiscal federalism, irrespective of the fact whether the country in question is an officially declared federal state or not. Thus while implementing decentralization policies, the need isto ‘bring the federal back in’.

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