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Decentralization and Popular Democracy

Governance from Below in Bolivia

Jean-Paul Faguet

Publication Year: 2012

Bolivia decentralized in an effort to deepen democracy, improve public services, and make government more accountable. Unlike many countries, Bolivia succeeded. Over the past generation, public investment shifted dramatically toward primary services and resource distribution became far more equitable, partly due to the creation of new local governments. Many municipalities responded to decentralization with transparent, accountable government, yet others suffered ineptitude, corruption, or both. Why? Jean-Paul Faguet combines broad econometric data with deep qualitative evidence to investigate the social underpinnings of governance. He shows how the interaction of civic groups and business interests determines the quality of local decision making. In order to understand decentralization, Faguet argues, we must understand governance from the ground up. Drawing on his findings, he offers an evaluation of the potential benefits of decentralization and recommendations for structuring successful reform.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-11

Enthusiasm for, and experiments with, decentralization have swept the world over the past four decades.When I began studying decentralization as a graduate student in 1995, commentators were already fond of citing the remarkable growth of policy experiments (and academic studies) since the early 1980s. To many it felt like a wave that must be cresting, soon to give...

Map of Bolivia

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p. 12-12

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1. The Bolivian Decentralization Reform

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pp. 13-47

On the eve of the 1952–53 revolution, Bolivia was a poor, backward country with extreme levels of inequality, presided over by a “typical racist state in which the non-Spanish speaking indigenous peasantry was controlled by a small, Spanish speaking white elite, [their power] based ultimately on violence more than consensus or any social pact.”1 The extent of the poverty...

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2. Local Government at the Extremes: Viacha

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pp. 48-86

The dramatic changes in investment patterns described in the previous chapter must originate in the decisions and actions undertaken by local governments all over Bolivia. This chapter and the next examine the institutional and social underpinnings of governance in two extreme cases of low and high performance in order to understand what drives public decision...

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3. Local Government at the Extremes: Charagua

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pp. 87-132

The road to Charagua is an orange ribbon of earth that carries travelers away from the exuberance of Santa Cruz’s tropical flowers and swaying palms, deep into the Chaco. The bouncing and banging of your jeep along the dusty road is interrupted occasionally by silence as you slip into pools of mud. Gradually the sun’s relentless glare melts the lush green surrounding...

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4. Decentralization and Responsiveness across Bolivia: A 21-Year View

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pp. 133-158

Chapter 1 presented simple but powerful descriptive statistics implying that decentralization changed sectoral and spatial patterns of public investment. Decentralized governments invested in different places and different sectors than centralized government had before, shaping national investment patterns that became more responsive to real local needs. But such descriptive...

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5. The State of Knowledge on Decentralization

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pp. 159-198

Decentralization redirected public investment in Bolivia away from production toward human capital formation and primary social services. It distributed resources far more equally across space, and it made government strongly responsive to local needs. Strikingly, this last comparison is the difference between local governments that invest in areas where need is high...

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6. Governance from Below: Theory

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pp. 199-220

Chapters 2 and 3 examined in great detail how local government functions in two very different municipalities.We focused on extremes of municipal performance in order to highlight how different institutional characteristics and political dynamics affect the quality of government. The districts operated in a common constitutional and legal framework, under the same...

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7. Governance from Below: Evidence

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pp. 221-239

The model laid out in the previous chapter explains outcomes in Viacha and Charagua well. But does it have more general implications? We turn now to a large-N database in search of broader support. If, as argued above, the outcomes of decentralization are largely the sum of the many local processes that it sets into motion, then a framework that models such...

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8. Return to the Extremes

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pp. 240-272

Chapters 2 and 3 chronicled how the same institutional shock produced very different kinds of local governance in two extreme cases of municipal performance. Did these initial responses persist over time? Did the bad get better, or did the good degrade? This chapter returns to Viacha and Charagua in 2009 to examine how governance in each municipality evolved over the subsequent 12 years. Doing so allows us to examine the differential effects that...

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9. Conclusion

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pp. 273-290

Prior to 1994 Bolivia was one of the most centralized states in Latin America, with few elected officials of any description at the subnational level and chains of authority that stretched from the lowliest nurse or schoolteacher in a distant village directly up to the president and his ministers in the Palacio Quemado in La Paz. Decentralization changed this overnight. On 1 July...

Appendix: Chapter 4 Data and Principal Component Variables

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pp. 291-296


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pp. 297-316

List of Interviews

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pp. 317-330


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pp. 331-348


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pp. 349-358

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028283
E-ISBN-10: 0472028286
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118199
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118196

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 32 figures, 18 tables, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012