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This paper proposes an economic logic for underpinning decentralization in the infrastructure sectors. It starts by detailing the definition of the infrastructure gap and the methodologies to calculate it. It provides some global trends for developing countries in terms of the gap and briefly discusses financing possibilities for developing countries to address the gap. Then it turns to the discussion of the link between the infrastructure gap and decentralization, providing a typology infrastructure subsectors and possible jurisdiction of service provision. It briefly discusses the potential for raising local finances for provision and the relationship between poverty and provision. While it is very difficult to provide blanket recommendations on decentralizing the various sectors and respective subcomponents of infrastructure services, the paper offers a set of guidelines to direct policymakers in their decision to decentralize or not. First, decentralization is intrinsically neither good nor bad for infrastructure; its impact depends entirely on the incentives facing the various decision-makers in the decentralization process; second, decentralization is most fruitful when the decision-makers bear the financial and political cost with respect to design, finance, operation and maintenance; and, finally, political leaders are accountable to their constituents for the manner in which they spend tax revenues and how they use and allocate transfers from the central government.


International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series #1406, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

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