Local Autonomy, Social Control: Decentralization as a Strategy for Government Legitimacy in Colombia. (Features: Political Reform)

By Ceballos Medina, Marcela | Hemisphere, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Local Autonomy, Social Control: Decentralization as a Strategy for Government Legitimacy in Colombia. (Features: Political Reform)


Ceballos Medina, Marcela, Hemisphere


Decentralization in Colombia has not followed a steady path, but has instead been marked by significant breaks and interruptions. This article analyzes the principal steps in the process from 1968 to date. It focuses on the objectives of reform, the resources or functions transferred, and the administrative levels empowered as a result. Finally, it suggests a typology for evaluating reforms according to their degree and emphasis, whether administrative, or fiscal.

Why Decentralize?

Decentralization can be defined as the process by which the central government transfers powers, functions and resources to departments and municipalities. Its goal is to increase the autonomy of the subnational levels of government and encourage more direct citizen participation in local public affairs.

This trend emerged in Colombia in the 1970s as part of a double strategy to boost government legitimacy through modernization of the state and the opening or democratization of politics. Its initial emphasis was fiscal, with control over public spending the main target. The process continued in the 1980s with a series of political reforms oriented toward democratization and the creation of avenues for citizen participation. This trend culminated in passage of a new constitution in 1991 that redefined the administrative structure of the government, granting greater autonomy to municipalities and seeking to modernize institutions at that level.

The decentralization process, therefore, has followed three major tracks: reorganization of fiscal responsibilities among the different levels of government in an attempt to rationalize public spending; municipal reforms aimed at improving public administration; and the creation of new channels for political participation and the institutionalization of social movements as a strategy to increase government legitimacy.

Levels of Decentralization

Colombia's main decentralizing reforms have focused on public administration and the structure of public services. They can be grouped according to the areas or functions they address as well as the administrative levels affected. These variables are closely related to two theoretical dimensions of decentralization: the degree of autonomy and participation of the different levels of administration and the community in government decisions, and the geographical proximity of decision-making administrative bodies to citizens.

The administrative areas or functions transferred from the central government to the departmental or local level fall into 12 different types, each of which represents a different degree of decentralization. Reform becomes more profound as the subnational levels of government and citizens go from being passive receivers of resources to active participants in public administration, all the way up to policy making.

The 12 areas of decentralization, in ascending order, are: 1) expansion of the fiscal system; 2) delivery of services or increased responsibility for a given sector; 3) financing of services through conditional transfers; 4) financing of services by other means; 5) financing of services with autonomous resources; 6) creation of new administrative levels of government; 7) control over the government agencies or companies that provide public services; 8) popular election of government authorities; 9) definition of the administrative functions of different levels or sectors (regulation and evaluation); 10) participation in budget design; 11) development planning; 12) constitutional reform/lawmaking.

The administrative levels affected also can be divided into categories according to their proximity to the community and local control: 1) the nation and Congress; 2) decentralized agencies at the local level; 3) region; 4) department and departmental assembly; 5) special districts and municipalities; and 6) the community. Congress and decentralized agencies are included in this list because Colombia's reform process follows a principal-agent model, in which the functions of territorial entities are determined by the central government. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Local Autonomy, Social Control: Decentralization as a Strategy for Government Legitimacy in Colombia. (Features: Political Reform)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.