Policy outcomes of decentralized public programs

Implications for rural policy

Authored by: Judith I. Stallmann , Grichawat Lowatcharin

The Routledge handbook of comparative rural policy

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138594111
eBook ISBN: 9780429489075
Adobe ISBN:


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A common mistake made by policy analysts is to assume that the structure of government in other countries is the same as that of their own. Countries vary from a unitary government in which rural areas are administered by officials appointed by the cabinet secretary responsible for local government to countries with several levels of government and in which responsibility for rural policy may be concentrated at one level or dispersed among various levels. Participating in international exchanges and policy discussion without an understanding of varying government structures will result in misunderstandings. One argument is that centralized governments may have one-size-fits-all policies that do not fit the diversity of rural areas and it also is difficult for rural people to access and have a voice in a centralized government. While decentralized government may offer more voice and more flexibility in policy it also may result in overlaps, discontinuities, and jurisdictional spillovers between governments (both positive and negative). This chapter draws on recent research that addresses the outcomes of centralized and decentralized policy systems. Assuming that one structure or the other is best will result in rural policy failures.

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