Localizing Public Services and Development

Localizing Public Services And Development

The Local Public Sector’s Role in Achieving Development Goals in Health and Education

Against the background of the expiring Millennium Development Goals, the global development community has engaged in significant debate about the scope, details and implementation of new, post-2015 sustainable development goals. In recognition of the fact that the implementation of key pro-poor development efforts takes place at the local level, one of the thematic elements of this discussion has been the “localisation” of development in the post-2015 agenda.

While strong arguments can be made that improved local governance and decentralisation will contribute to more efficient public services and greater economic growth, until recently the academic research on the role of the local public sector has been unable to confirm to what extent or under what conditions a greater degree of decentralisation results in better development outcomes.

In order to fill this gap in the state of knowledge, DeLoG and the Urban Institute Center on International Development and Governance engaged in an empirical stock-taking exercise to assess the contribution of local governments, and the local public sector more broadly, in achieving global development goals. Based on data on health and education expenditures from 29 developing and transition countries, the study introduces an important new approach to understanding the decentralisation and localization of service provision. In contrast to most of the existing literature, the study not only considers devolved sectoral expenditures but also deconcentrated and delegated spendings and central government expenditures. It thereby allows to capture both localised resources that have not been analysed to date and to make direct comparisons between countries with devolved systems of governance and those with deconcentrated systems.

The study draws the following main conclusions:

  • The local public sector is of high importance in providing MDG-relevant services. The study results convincingly show that there is a positive correlation between localised sectoral spending and sector outcomes in  health and education. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the localisation of expenditures is an important determinant in achieving positive development outcomes, particularly in the education sector.
  • Local governments account for only about one-third of local public sector spending in the examined countries. This implies that previous research may have overlooked up to two-thirds of all local public sector expenditures on health and education by focusing exclusively on devolved expenditures.
  • Countries typically rely on multiple models of decentralisation. Those that spend less on public services via devolved mechanisms tend to make up the difference by spending more on local service provision via other modalities of decentralisation or localization.

›› For more information on the study visit the Urban Institue website and the Urban Institute Blog for an interactive overview of education and health spending patterns.

Relevant background information and study material can be found here:

– Policy Brief
– Research Method
– Country Survey Instructions
– Country Survey Instructions french
– Country Survey (xlsx)
– Country Survey french (xlsx)
– Generic ToRS (docx)

LPS Country Survey Instructions – Tutorial Presentations (You Tube):
The Local Public Sector’s Role in Achieving Development Goals: Research Agenda and Research Methodology
Part I: Completing the Organizational / Governance Profile
Part II: Completing the Expenditure Profile
Part III: Completing the Institutional Profile
Part IV: Completing the Global Development Outcomes