(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-08)
Channa, Anila; Faguet, Jean-Paul
We review empirical evidence on the ability of decentralization to enhance preference matching and technical efficiency in the provision of health and education in developing countries. Many influential surveys have found that the empirical evidence of decentralization's effects on service delivery is weak, incomplete, and often contradictory. Our own unweighted reading of the literature concurs. However, when we organize quantitative evidence first by substantive theme, and then—crucially—by empirical quality and the credibility of its identification strategy, clear patterns emerge. Higher-quality evidence indicates that decentralization increases technical efficiency across a variety of public services, from student test scores to infant mortality rates. Decentralization also improves preference matching in education, and can do so in health under certain conditions, although there is less evidence for both. We discuss individual studies in some detail. Weighting by quality is especially important when quantitative evidence informs policy-making. Firmer conclusions will require an increased focus on research design, and a deeper examination into the prerequisites and mechanisms of successful reforms.
Mainstream international development discourse has long heralded the importance of home grown solutions and national ownership of development policies. Ownership has been seen as the missing link between the significant development aid inflows from the North and poverty reduction outcomes in the South. You only have to look to international agreements such the 2002 Monterrey Consensus or the2005 Paris Declaration for evidence of this.
After attending a South-South experience-sharing event in China, a number of African officials wondered: "How come China is able to develop and retain its implementation capacity, whereas our countries suffer from brain-drain?"