Essay: Decentralized Government

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Decentralized Government

The issue of decentralization represents a major aspect in the theory of government and organization of the state. From several points-of-view it can be considered to be a success story for the administrations throughout the world. This is largely due to the fact that it enables the top political aspects to be viewed from all the levels of the administration rather than the central one alone.

Throughout the world there are several important examples of states which have chosen a decentralized modus operandi for its administration. In this sense, Switzerland may be one of the most important, along with Germany, or Belgium. However, in order to properly acknowledge the importance of the decentralized system, it is crucial that several questions be raised. In this sense, the present paper will focus on possible answers to the way in which decentralization could be achieved, the challenges facing policy makers in order to act on the process of decentralization, and potential results to be taken into account when measuring the impact of decentralization, in particular for the customer, the individual.

How can decentralization be achieved?

Decentralization, according to the World Bank, represents "the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to subordinate or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector" (Decentralization Thematic Team, 2010). The social contract between the authority, the state, and its citizens consists of a special connection with the particular aim of governing and representativeness. However, even if this social contract stands at the base of the society as we know it today, it focuses on attaining particular goals and aspects crucial for the well being of the society. In effect, this is the main goal of the social contract and of the connection it exists between the constituencies and its elected representatives. The transfer of power from the individual to the authority is crucial for the way in which administration is conducted at the level of the state (Dunleavy and O'Leary, 1987 ).

In terms of decentralization, it is important to note that it is not necessarily a first choice when organizing the administration of the state. It results from a particular need as the process or decentralization answers to particular needs, and not to a generally accepted framework of government. Such needs would be a better democratic process, a more effective administrative system at the regional level, a more effective fiscal policy in terms of revenues. Therefore, it can be argued that decentralization represents a solution to an existing problem, rather than a first choice analysis.

Achieving decentralization, as stated before, represents a solution to a certain problem. From this point-of-view, given the fact that the state by no means considers decentralization as a first choice, decentralization can be achieved by addressing the core problems of the society. In this sense, the first step to be taken concerns the political spectrum. More precisely, in the situation in which decentralization is in origins a political process and deals with the political aspects of the administration (Dunleavy and O'Leary, 1987 ), it is only normal that the decentralization process to begin at the political level.

Decentralization implies a particular process of giving away the central power to the local authorities. This automatically implies a much more implicated social society at the local level. Therefore, the first aspect to be taken into account is the political level of the regions around the country. For example, the European Union, one of the most important players on the international scene, has adopted the politics of decentralization in order to achieve a higher degree of integration at the regional level (Staab, 2008). This aspect is crucial for maintaining the political project that is the EU. However, the basic principle which laid at the foundation of this consists in the attempt to include as many people in the decision making process as possible in order to achieve a higher degree of representativeness. The logic is similar throughout the world in terms of decentralization. Even so, while some countries adopted decentralization as a problem solving solution, the European Union used the decentralization principle to establish an entire regime based on the basic principle of inclusion in political and the decision making process.

The model of the European Union is very important for understanding the precise principles of the decentralization process, regardless of the way in which it was implemented. In this sense, decentralization means giving up central power to the regional level, in terms of political affairs. In practice, the EU considered this to be the only way through which the decision taken at the center, from Brussels, to be representative for the needs of the locals. Thus, most of the EU policies have a regional implication. The EU parliamentarians, despite the fact that they act at the European level, represent the different regions of the EU members. This, set in theory, implies a higher degree of representativeness and a larger interest in European affairs throughout the EU. More importantly for the decentralization process however is the fact that action in the EU can be taken at a local level when there is a regional initiative (Staab, 2008). From this point-of-view it is important to consider one of the benefits of the decentralized framework of the EU. Local initiative means more or less a higher degree of responsiveness from the local societies and a better consideration of the problems faced at the local level.

Aside from the political perspective on the decentralization, there is also the administrative aspect. Most importantly, decentralization implies a much more important role for the local authorities. Better said, it ensures that the local authorities are part of the decision making process. From this point-of-view, decentralization is achieved by improving the local authorities' capabilities and functions in order to deal with the challenges imposed by the decision making process. This must and can be achieved through trainings, workshops, and know-how sharing. In practice, taking the example of the EU as the most important decentralized political structure, this type of transfer from EU countries to non-EU countries on the road to membership was achieved along the years through different twinning programs which implied the sharing of the experiences of EU countries when faced with different aspects of decentralization in the EU. This is an important aspect which could be applied throughout the administrative apparatus in different countries around the world which consider the decentralized structure to suit their national interest best.

Another important element of the process of decentralization in terms of the application procedure is concerned is the functional component of the process. More precisely, given that the decentralization process is a structural change of the system, the new system is based on new ideas and therefore on a new infrastructure. Thus, the local administration must become aware of the new functions it takes from the central government and be able to perform its tasks in such a manner as to not interrupt the ongoing processes. Therefore, the creation of the logistics, of the different processes to be implemented represents a crucial step in the process of the decentralization.

Challenges facing decentralization

The challenges faced in the process of the decentralization are numerous and depend in a great extent on the way in which the process in itself is viewed. In this sense, most countries that have chosen the decentralization process did so in order to make the change from a communist closed market to the market economy (UNDP, 2010). Therefore, in such cases, it is not only a challenge for the public sector but also a particularly difficult change for the private sector. Therefore, it is important to consider the fact that decentralization also takes into account the private sector as it represents a crucial element of the market economy. In its turn, the private sector must be well aware of the changes taking place and must adapt in a faster pace as the public sector because in the end, it represents the most important beneficiary of the financial decentralization in particular.

Another important challenged decentralization poses is the adaptation of the political arena to the way in which regional politics is conducted. Better said, given the new changed perspective from the central government to the local decision makers, politics is conducted at a larger scale and for problems which are much more specific to that region. Therefore, the political discourse must be changed in such a manner as to insure that the issues presented at the local level are heard at the central level.

One of the downfalls of the decentralized process represents the potential misunderstanding of the political and administrative process. In other words, if the administration and the political actors are not versatile in engaging with the decentralized apparatus, a lot of opportunities and chances can be lost and the region may suffer from a poor representation as well as a poor management system.

What are the quantifiable results of decentralization?

It is rather difficult to assess the results of decentralization… [END OF PREVIEW]

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