November 02, 2006

Decentralization or Regionalism

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The Morales government has made public its proposal to modify the decentralization scheme in Bolivia. According to Fabián Yaksic, Vice-minister of Decentralization, the new structure would entail, 9 departments, 42 autonomic regions, 327 municipalities, and a yet unidentified number of territorial indigenous organizations.

What is new, is the division of the Bolivian territory in 42 autonomic regions. This would introduce a new level of territorial division between the departmental level (or in the US case, the state level) and the municipal level (in the US, the local level).

I wonder if the government has paid attention to the extensive literature about the Bolivian experience with decentralization. I have, and if there is one conclusion that stands out, is the fact that in the current situation, there is deficiency in the coordination work between the departmental governments and the municipal governments. They just do not communicate with eachother. In fact, there are some studies contending that the departmental level of government or prefecture (as it is called in Bolivia) hinders the work of the municipal government. I am thinking, how is one more level going to help?

I am tending to agree on this one with the Prefect of Santa Cruz. He sais that the plans of the government are to rest power from the prefect by dividing the department into regions. So, politically motivated reforms to an issue like the decentralization process where it is also necessary to pay attention to technical issues, are not useful.