Capacity Development Strategies to Support Decentralization in Asia
Decentralization reforms are far from homogeneous, with governments adopting a range of methods and strategies according to their national context. Broadly, decentralization includes transferring decision making power to province-level and district-level governments (e.g. Indonesia); enhancing voter participation by creating elected councils at the sub-district and village level (e.g. India); and allocating spending responsibilities to lower levels of government (e.g. Vietnam), among others.
Furthermore, effective decentralization requires capacity development and community involvement, yet both are in too short a supply. Though local and provincial governments are now managing a range of investment, fiscal, and regulatory activities, and are increasingly responsible for the delivery of key basic services, capacity gaps and institutional barriers undermine their ability to carry out these tasks. Common challenges include strong command and control structure by various line agencies; mistrust between central government and local officials; corruption and elite capture; fiscal inequalities in service delivery; lack of accountability and unclear mandates; poor administrative and human resource capacity; poor regulatory oversight; fragmented budget processes; and lack of institutional clarity, especially with regards to managing sub-national expenditures.
Noting these challenges, the paper identifies institutional arrangements to develop capacity for decentralized and participative governance at the sub-national level. Four capacity development and policy instruments are described. These are: clear assignment of decision making powers with appropriate administrative staff and functions; fiscal decentralization; promoting participation and decision making by the people through locally elected councils; and most importantly, building accountability relations. The paper argues that capacity development is a fundamental component of successful decentralization reform.
DISCLAIMER: The findings, interpretations and conclusions are strictly those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of UNDP or United Nations Member States.