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The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that public institutions and some households in the United Kingdom (UK) were in a vulnerable and weak financial position to mitigate its immediate outcomes. Public institutions did not have the necessary resources to support their communities and low-income groups were disproportionally affected by the economic contraction of 2020–2021. This paper explores how the disastrous consequences of the pandemic were exacerbated by the implementation of an austerity programme, that as an extension of a neoliberal ideology, supported the development of the market at the expense of reducing the welfare state. Through an assessment of four trends that were reinforced during austerity—the four ‘Ds’—this article shows that austerity influenced many of the struggles observed during the pandemic. These trends are disinvestment, decentralisation, decollectivisation and disintegration. Despite the lessons learnt in 2020–2021 and the evident need to move away from a neoliberal agenda that dismantled the capacities of the state, this article concludes that neoliberalism continues to threaten the welfare state and the formation of social collectivities. Some expenditure decisions taken by the British government in 2020–2021 could further deepen social class divisions and regional inequalities. More is needed from the government to tackle these social problems and to build a fairer and more equal society.
In this article, we study the minimum wage setting reform in Russia that aimed to decentralise the fixing of the minimum wage and to increase the involvement of social partners into this process. The old system of minimum wage setting was based on a single nationwide minimum wage which was differentiated across regions and occupations via a cumbersome framework of coefficients. The new system is a mixture of the government-set minimum wage at the federal level and collective agreements at the regional level. We show that the system of minimum wage setting has become more flexible. The reform succeeded in raising the real value of the minimum wage and increasing earnings of low-paid workers without causing significant negative effects in terms of employment. The reform did not lead to greater regional variation of minimum wages. Nevertheless, it introduced some new imbalances: an unintended consequence of the reform was the emergence of separate regional wage sub-minima for private and public sector workers in many regions. The major challenge in coming years is to strengthen the institutions of collective bargaining, introduce evidence-based evaluation and boost the capacities of government and non-government monitoring agencies.
Growing rapidly before the early 2000s, literature on provincial Thai politics has dwindled in recent years. This article makes a small attempt to redress this trend by highlighting one distinctive yet understudied emerging electoral dynamics in provincial Thailand. Specifically, drawing mainly on Thai-language primary sources, this paper shows that in the majority of Thailand's provinces, the Provincial Administrative Organisation, an electoral institution that has received an unprecedented amount of state funding in the post-1997 age of decentralisation, has enabled influential political families to retain and even increase their power. As political and economic power has been decentralised from Bangkok, it has ironically been centralised in the hands of a limited number of oligarchic provincial elites. This phenomenon is not an historical aberration; rather, it should be viewed as one manifestation or product of Thailand's enduring patrimonial culture, in which public officeholders’ positions are regarded as an extension of their personal or familial property. I conclude by discussing the Thai case theoretically and comparatively.
Industry is a major contributor to climate change. Many industrial sites, supply chains and customers are vulnerable to climate change and policy and consumer responses to climate change. Profits from industrial production depend on consumer demand, and how products are provided. Powerful forces such as digitalisation, dematerialisation, decentralisation, electrification, efficiency improvement and circular economies influence production and emissions Industrial firms face pressure from regulators, investors and customers. However, there is enormous potential to capture multiple benefits through aggressive, innovative decarbonisation strategies that target growth markets and involve cooperation along supply chains. Economic productivity and business competitiveness improvement can cut business costs and reduce extreme weather risk exposure, whilst positioning manufacturing companies for fast-growing markets in low-carbon resilient products and services. The chapter overviews policies national and subnational government policymakers can consider to support transition to a zero-carbon resilient industrial sector.
This chapter provides a reassessment of competence allocation and exercise under the UK constitution. It shows how the existing allocation needs to be understood through the prism of EU membership, and supports previously provided by the EU’s governance system. In particular, the EU’s commitment to subsidiarity, under which decisions should be taken at the lowest effective level, and its openness to regional concerns, carved out space for the exercise of devolved competence within a system of cooperative multilevel governance. This is in stark contrast to the near autonomous coexistence of the different governments within the UK nation state. As the UK embarks on the process of leaving the EU, its internal distribution of power is subjected to a recentralisation of competence. Informed by the literature on comparative federalism, it argues that there is a need for an effective domestic replacement for the shared competence space previously provided by the EU’s cooperative federalist system of governance. Powerful challenges have come from an attachment to the model of autonomous coexistence of central and devolved levels of government, reinforced by a resurgent principle of Westminster parliamentary sovereignty. Without an effective commitment to shared governance however, the Union’s future is in serious doubt.
African regimes commonly use strategies of balanced ethnic representation to build support. Decentralisation reforms, often promoted in order to improve political representation and state access, can undermine such strategies. In this article we use the example of the DR Congo to show the extent to which the multiplication of decentralised provinces is upending a political system largely based until now upon collective ethnic representation in the state. Not only are Congo's new provinces more ethnically homogeneous than their predecessors, but many of them have also witnessed political takeover and monopolisation by the province's dominant ethnic group. In addition, the increased number of Congolese who now find themselves non-autochthonous to their province of residence heightens their vulnerability and the potential for local conflict. Decentralisation, whose intent was proximity to governance, might well end up excluding more Congolese from the benefits of political representation. The article uses original empirical evidence on provincial ethnic distributions to support its claims.
In 1994, many responsibilities of Statistics Sweden were transferred to new statistical units operating within policy areas. Statistics Sweden has gradually accrued greater formal powers to oversee and coordinate official statistics in the country, leading to a partial reversal of the decentralisation reforms. Chapter 4 shows how credibility imperatives and institutional settings have shaped these developments. Decentralisation emerged following the end of social democratic political hegemony, when centrist and new-right governments demanded greater responsiveness and efficiency and sought to break up bureaucratic monoliths. Depoliticisation pressures, driven by the EU context, have resulted in a political push for recentralisation of authority. Statistics Sweden historically pursued credibility by emphasising competency, but shifted to stressing usefulness and demystification of official statistics. Sweden’s statisticians enjoy formal independence thanks to constitutional provisions that protect the autonomy of Swedish government agencies, but continuous informal dialogues are used to secure policymakers’ influence over statistical agendas.
The USA has a decentralised statistical system of 13 ‘principal statistical agencies’ and numerous smaller official statistical programs. Formal arrangements for autonomy differ between the agencies, including various models for appointing agency heads. The Chief Statistician has a unique role, not directly overseeing statistical production but with power to review and veto existing and proposed data collection initiatives in the federal government. There is a strong political imperative to steer statistics in support of policy agendas, resulting in practice incremental expansion of statistical collections to meet new needs. Support for statistical autonomy has a pronounced partisan flavour. The US separation of powers creates a greater number of political access points into statistical programs, but also a higher degree of transparency that discourages political meddling. Administrative traditions create an imperative to secure access to the White House, and the office of the Chief Statistician acts as a gatekeeper for this access, channelling statisticians’ demands for new resources and authorities to key central agencies in the executive.
Britain has a partly decentralised arrangement where most official statistics are produced in government departments at the direction of ministers. A parallel set of centralised statistical institutions and organisations has grown up over time, culminating in the 2007 legislative reforms instituting a formally independent central statistical authority. Chapter 6 traces the different credibility imperatives bearing on UK official statistics and shows how these produced demands for centralisation, legislation, and independencewith attention to the political fallout from the Thatcher Government’s defunding of and interference in official statistics, along with subsequent efforts to find arrangements enhancing statistical independence while preserving the decentralised model. The chapter illustrates impacts of UK government statisticians’ behaviours, highlighting problems in the management of the central statistical agency, and conflicts between statisticians over reform. It shows that the distribution of statistical authority in the UK reflects efforts to reconcile post-Thatcher depoliticisation with a decentralised arrangement and Westminster conventions of ministerial prerogative.
Who decides how official statistics are produced? Do politicians have control or are key decisions left to statisticians in independent statistical agencies? Interviews with statisticians in Australia, Canada, Sweden, the UK and the USA were conducted to get insider perspectives on the nature of decision making in government statistical administration. While the popular adage suggests there are 'lies, damned lies and statistics', this research shows that official statistics in liberal democracies are far from mistruths; they are consistently insulated from direct political interference. Yet, a range of subtle pressures and tensions exist that governments and statisticians must manage. The power over statistics is distributed differently in different countries, and this book explains why. Differences in decision-making powers across countries are the result of shifting pressures politicians and statisticians face to be credible, and the different national contexts that provide distinctive institutional settings for the production of government numbers.
Greece joined the European Community in 1981 and, three years later, the Commission of the European Communities provided financial and technical assistance under EEC Regulation 815/84 for the modernisation of the traditional psychiatric care system, with the emphasis on decentralisation of mental health services and the development of community-based services, as well as on deinstutionalization of long-stay patients and improvement of conditions in public mental hospitals. Over the last 11 years, the implementation of the EEC Reg. 815/84 programme contributed to a significant shift towards extramural care and rehabilitation. The role of the large mental hospitals has gradually been diminished and a large number of long-stay patients have been deinstitutionalised. It is commonly accepted that the EEC-funded psychiatric reform programme, despite inadequacies and constraints, had an impact on the changing mental health scene in Greece.
Global governance is a particularly challenging area of global politics in which to assess and develop Green contributions because the nature of global governance reform that Greens would like to see is far less clear than for Green visions regarding related areas such as the economy, the state or security. I argue, nevertheless, that there is a clear need for a Green account of global governance, one which uniquely assesses the project and practice of global governance as a whole from the point of view of its ability to create a sustainable society rather than its ability to preserve order as an end in itself. This chapter firstl outlines Green critiques of prevailing global governance arrangements, focused on their democratic deficits and poor levels of accountability, the concentration of power in global neoliberal institutions such as the World Trade Organization,the World Bank and the IMF and their failure to advance a more sustainable model of development. Second, it proposes a vision for Green global governance in which there is a rebalancing and repurposing of global governance institutions around the need to move towards a sustainable society. Third, it evaluates strategies for achieving Green global governance.
Reciprocity, if harnessed in the right way, can serve as a force for good, but it can wither and thus needs to be nourished. This chapter suggests three nutrients. First, reciprocity should be emphasised in the political discourse. If we want social structures that support the basic human motivation to reciprocate and hence cooperate, then how they do so ought to be explained clearly. Second, the decentralisation of more of the management of public services to local planners, purchasers and providers is advisable, partly because securing reciprocal motivations and actions and abating egoistical ones is more difficult the larger the group, partly because this would afford greater local level innovation, which, if good results were shown, could be disseminated cross-regionally, and partly because local level actors will be more in tune with the objectives and priorities of the people they serve. Third, there ought to be policy action on reducing the high concentrations of income and wealth within small percentages of the population, because if one wants people to give and take it makes sense to create conditions where they do not feel that others are merely taking.
In the 1990s, Colombia decentralised politics and passed multicultural reforms as part of wider strategies to strengthen the state. Multiculturalism produced a complex institutional environment marked by jurisdictional overlap and legal plurality. The literature on Colombia's multiculturalism confirms that violence, indigenous rights abuses and the lack of enabling legislation on indigenous territorial entities limited ethno-political autonomy and instead enhanced the capacity of the state to transform indigenous identity and bureaucratise local decision-making practices. However, some indigenous authorities used the new institutions to take control of communal matters, changing local governments along the way. The better-known case of indigenous self-government is that of the Nasa people in Cauca, characterised by the capture of local institutions to advance ethnic rights. In my study of the Embera Chamí of Karmata Rúa (Antioquia) I argue that they represent an alternative approach centred on institutional embeddedness, or the repetition of ethnic autonomy rules by multiple layers of government.
Although considerable attention has been paid to the use of quantitative methods in health research, there has been limited focus on decentralisation research using a qualitative-driven mixed method design. Decentralisation presents both a problematic concept and methodological challenges, and is more context-specific and is often multi-dimensional. Researchers often consider using more than one method design when researching phenomena is complex in nature.
To explore the effects of decentralisation on the provision of primary healthcare services.
Qualitative-driven mixed method design, employing three methods of data collections: focus group discussions (FGDs), semi-structured interviews (SSIs) and participant observations under two components, that is, core component and supplementary components were used. Four FGDs with health service practitioners, three FGDs with district stakeholders, 20 SSIs with health service users and 20 SSIs with national stakeholders were carried out. These were conducted sequentially. NVivo10, a data management program, was utilised to code the field data, employing a content analysis method for searching the underlying themes or concepts in the text material.
Both positive and negative experiences related to access, quality, planning, supplies, coordination and supervision were identified.
This study suggests some evidence of the effects of decentralisation on health outcomes in general, as well as filling a gap of understanding and examining healthcare through a qualitative-driven mixed methods approach, in particular. Future research in the area of qualitative in-depth understanding of the problems (why decentralisation, why now and what for) would provoke an important data set that benefits the researchers and policy-makers for planning and implementing effective health services.
Urban and rural local authorities constitute the lowest tier of Zimbabwe's multilevel system of government. These local governments have a constitutional “right to govern” that must be exercised within the constitutional, legislative and policy framework. Under the old constitutional order, the national government could supervise urban local authorities, for example by issuing policy directives to ensure that these authorities governed in a manner that enabled them to deliver on national and local goals. This article examines this supervisory instrument, the powers it gives the national government, its use in practice and its relevance under the new constitutional order. The main argument is that supervisory instruments, such as the power to issue policy directives to local governments, are necessary in any multilevel system of government. However, such supervisory powers must be balanced with the need for local autonomy, to allow local governments to deliver on their service delivery obligations and development mandate.
This study analyses the contradictory effects of decentralisation on public spending. We distinguish three dimensions of decentralisation and analyse their joint and separate effects on public spending in the Swiss cantons over 20 years. We find that overall decentralisation has a strong, significant and negative effect on the size of the public sector, thus confirming the Leviathan hypothesis. The same holds for fiscal and institutional decentralisation. However, the extent to which political processes and actors are organised locally rather than centrally actually increases central and decreases local spending. This suggests that actors behave strategically when dealing with the centre by offloading the more costly policies. The wider implication of our study is that the balance between self-rule and shared rule has implications also for the size of the overall political system.
This article describes the centralised nature of the UK, briefly describes the changes now under way in Scotland and Wales and then analyses differences in output per head as between nations and regions. It then considers the scope for devolution, including fiscal devolution within England. The United Kingdom today is one of the most fiscally-centralised of all OECD countries, but there will soon be reform in Scotland and Wales, with significant devolution of tax-raising powers to Edinburgh and Cardiff. In England, there is currently no ‘state’ or ‘regional’ tier of government. There have been significant differences in GDP/GVA per head of the nations and regions of the UK for many decades. Efforts to ‘rebalance’ the GDP/GVA totals shown above have involved public expenditure and investment programmes over several decades. The results of the UK's centralised distribution of resources, if any, on changes in regional and sub-regional performance are little studied. A highly-centralised system of taxation and public expenditure is not, it would appear, a guarantee of territorial economic equalisation. In a potentially radical policy departure, George Osborne has moved further than any minister in recent times towards a form of city-regional devolution within England. In the first instance, any devolved power is likely to be over public expenditure, though in the longer term fiscal devolution may become possible. The move towards a quasi-federal UK is now well under way.
This article assesses the impact that direct election of regional presidents has had on party politics in Italy. It finds regional presidents exert a growing personalisation of power within parties at sub-national levels, primarily through their capacity for political nomination and de facto status as party negotiators in the governing coalition. While presidents may shape structures of regional party competition, they remain constrained by coalitional politics and can struggle to assert their authority against powerful governing partners or local powerbrokers rooted in the legislature. They also possess few mechanisms to consolidate their position at national level, consistent with a broader tendency towards ‘stratarchy’ in multi-level parties. Although the distinction between densely and loosely structured parties remains relevant, a common trend towards ‘cartelisation’ at sub-national levels is noted as political parties prioritise the control of state resources and the governing legitimacy this entails. This article contributes to our broader understanding of the multi-level dynamics of party politics in Europe, as well as the unintended consequences of experimenting with an untested hybrid model of ‘directly elected Prime Minister’ in the Italian regions.
Studies that examine the effects of decentralisation for social change or stasis have placed necessary attention on its institutional dynamics: the ways social institutions have transformed as a result of new governance regimes, or alternatively, how the existing institutional context and attendant power relations determine its actualisation. The second facet of the structure/agency dialectic is often overlooked however, that is, the actors themselves. This article seeks to overcome this lacuna by exploring the effects of citizens' engagement in practices associated with decentralised governance for individuals' understandings of self, society, and their relationship with the state. A comparison of two villages in Telangana, India, and Central Lombok, Indonesia reveals how differences in the distribution of welfare benefits have implications for the potential of such interactions to be sites of creative self-formation. Differences such as the regularity and ability to demand entitlements, preferential versus equal access to resources, and the levels at which citizens engage with the state, may be crucial for processes of subjectification, and by extension, social transformation.