Decentralisation and Regionalisation in Portugal

What Reform Scenarios?

image of Decentralisation and Regionalisation in Portugal

This report has been prepared by the OECD upon request by the Portuguese Independent Commission for Decentralisation. Decentralisation and regionalisation reforms have recently emerged on the Portugal’s policy agenda, with two main objectives: assigning more tasks to municipalities and strengthening regional level governance. The report presents a diagnosis of Portugal multi-level governance in international perspectives and highlights the strengths and challenges of the system. It then presents three potential policy paths of regional reform for Portugal. As the options are not mutually exclusive, they could work as complements to each other. The report analyses the conditions under which the reforms may deliver more economic efficiency and regional equity.




From an OECD comparative perspective, Portugal is a unitary and much centralised State, clearly influenced by the model of public administration. Portugal has basically only two layers of government, with the exception of the two autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores, of which the 308 municipalities form the core of the local government. The creation of administrative regions in the Continental territory of Portugal, which is contemplated in the Portuguese Constitution of 1976, has never materialised. A referendum on regionalisation failed in 1998. Two decades later, the Portuguese government continues to face recurrent challenges of economic development and territorial cohesion. Recently, decentralisation reforms emerged again on top of the policy agenda with two main objectives: by assigning more tasks to municipalities and by strengthening regional level governance.


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