Making Decentralisation Work in Chile

Towards Stronger Municipalities

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This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the challenges confronting Chile’s centralised growth model and recommendations towards developing a more integrated territorial approach, capable of mobilising regional productivity catch-up potential in order to strengthen the role of regions and municipalities.

The Chilean government has launched an ambitious decentralisation agenda, aimed at empowering municipalities by providing them with the legitimacy, financial resources, human capacities and tools required to improve their autonomy and performance. This study seeks to assist the government by covering several dimensions, looking at municipal responsibilities, fiscal and human resources, equalisation mechanisms, local public service performance,  citizen participation, and co-ordination mechanisms across levels of government.


Assessment and recommendations

Chile’s complex geography, history and economic development model are all factors which account for why it is particularly challenging to implement a decisive decentralisation process. Chile has a long tradition of being a heavily centralised unitary country despite a history marked by several decentralisation pushes, and even an attempt at federalism. During the dictatorship, the governance reform in the 1980s, which transferred several central government tasks (education and health, for instance) and associated resources, was more a policy of deconcentration of state responsibilities to local entities than a real decentralisation policy. Since the return of democracy, progress has been made towards decentralisation and regionalisation which are seen as a means of re-democratising the country and reforming the state. Progress, however, has been slow. The centralist heritage remains strong and deeply-rooted in Chile's politicaladministrative culture and behaviour, thus slowing and scaling back the decentralisation initiatives.


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