Local Government in Latin America

Local Government in Latin America

Local Government in Latin America

Local Government in Latin America

Synopsis

This guide to local government in Latin America provides a detailed overview of the political and economic significance of local government in the region as a whole, as well as 18 country studies written to a common format.

Excerpt

The municipality is the formal institution of local government, the lowest tier of public administration within the nation-state. There are currently around 14,000 municipalities throughout Latin America. With the exception of parts of rural Bolivia and the rural areas of many Argentine provinces, a structure of local government covers the entire length and breadth of the region. It extends from the far north in the Municipality of Mexicali on the Mexican border with the United States to the far south in the Municipality of Navarino in the Chilean Antarctic, and from the Municipality of the Galapagos Islands off the west coast of Ecuador to the Municipality of João Pessoa on the northeastern tip of Brazil.

The economic and political significance of the municipal structure within Latin America is not inconsiderable. Local government typically accounts for between 5 and 15 percent of total public expenditure, and in most countries this share is growing. Municipalities have long provided a range of public services, albeit inadequately, to the rapidly growing urban population of the region. The share of the region's population living in urban settlements of more than 20,000 inhabitants is likely to rise from 72 percent in 1990 to 77 percent in 2000. Almost every municipality with a population of more than 20,000 already provides its citizens with some form of rudimentary solid waste management, city lighting, and road construction and maintenance, as well as cemeteries, public markets, slaughterhouses, and civil registration facilities. Furthermore, in some countries, municipalities have a long-standing tradition of providing basic public services such as water supply, sewerage, and urban transportation; whereas in others, recent decentralization programs have encouraged municipal involvement in primary health care and basic education for the first time. The breadth of service provision means that local government also makes a significant impact on economic activity and job creation in the local economy. It achieves this through its role as direct employer, as purchaser of local goods and services, and by the multiplier effect of municipal investment programs, which are still largely financed from central government transfers.

Today there is new interest in local government within Latin America. This follows several decades during which municipalities were stripped of . . .

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