Decentralization is meant to deepen democracy, improve public services, and make government more accountable. But evidence from across the globe is contradictory. Is it an empty fashion? A giant mistake? Jean-Paul Faguet uses the remarkable case of Bolivia to investigate reform over a generation. Decentralization succeeded in Bolivia because change was driven by smaller, poorer municipalities prioritizing their greatest needs. Faguet combines broad econometric data with deep qualitative evidence to plumb the social underpinnings of governance. To understand decentralization, he argues, we must understand governance from the ground up.
Jean-Paul Faguet is a Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Chair of the Decentralization Task Force of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University.