Making Decentralization Work in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Background Paper for the Subnational Development Strategy

May 2001
The paper provides information and analysis in support of the Bank's subnational development strategy (GN-2026). The strategy will guide future Bank operations in support of decentralization to address the complex issues countries are facing in their efforts to promote the socioeconomic development in subnational territories. The document is divided in three sections: the first section provides an overview of the decentralization process in Latin America and the Caribbean and sets the stage for an analysis of the key isuues that need to be addresses by the Bank when supporting the decentralization process in the region; the next chapter discusses the challenges confronted by subnational governments. The development of subnational governments is key to improving well-being. The next section focuses on the structure of intergovernmental relations and concludes that a well-designed structure provides subnational governments with incentives to efficiently allocate resources to the most socially profitable uses. The next chapter discusses the governance issues involved in decentralization, while the next section concentrates on the institucional aspects of the institucional aspects of decentralization and concludes that the Bank should emphasize the need for subnational governments to have sufficient institutional capacity at socially acceptable levels of performance. Finally, the last chapter discusses the variety of issues related to financing subnational governments and recommends that the Bank stress the paramount importance of sufficient sources of financing for ensuing good subnational government performance.