Decentralization, Governance and Public Services | The Impact of Institutional Arrangements


Whether the state is unitary or federal may also influence the performance of decentralization. In regimes with elected legislators, a unitary state vests its lawmaking ability in the national legislature, while a federal state has subnational legislatures as well, which have their own ability to make laws within their jurisdictions. A federal state is not necessarily more decentralized than a unitary government. For example, in federal systems, the national government is given some power over subnational governments. Further, federations have evolved so that their levels of government are interdependent, “ making formal, legalistic definitions in terms of division of powers relatively useless, ” (Smith 1985, 13). Also, a unitary system can “ devolve substantial powers to provincial governments so that a quasi-federal arrangement exists ” (Smith 1985, 14). These arrangements are sometimes uniform, sometimes asymmetrical. The Philippines, for example, gave greater regional autonomy to Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera in 1989, while maintaining a fiscally centralized system and a unitary government

Source InstitutionWorld Bank
Source URL
Page Count37
Place of PublicationPasig City
Original Publication DateSeptember 1, 1999