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Title: Evolution through Devolution: Resolving Iraq’s Public Service Delivery Crisis
Authors: Stevens, Mark
Advisors: Bodine, Barbara
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Iraq currently suffers from a public service delivery crisis rooted in ineffectual government plagued with corruption and sectarian divisions. Nearly 40% of Iraqis describe health services as “bad” or “very bad,” for instance, while more than 80% of Iraqis describe electricity services in those same terms. As citizens lose confidence in the central government’s ability to effectively serve the public, some call for empowering sub-national government officials through the process of devolution. The research presented in this paper aims to determine how this governance structure might affect public service delivery in Iraq, given the realities within the still-tumultuous nation. Under the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein, governance featured elements of decentralization in the legal framework, but in practice it was highly centralized. Following the dictator’s overthrow, occupying forces developed local institutional capacity while decentralization became a recurring feature of the new legal and constitutional framework. Sub-national officials have begun pursuing further devolution of authority and resources to their offices in light of weak central government responsiveness. This study investigates devolution’s potential impact on public service delivery in Iraq through various approaches. From a review of the relevant academic literature on the matter, it is clear that (1) decentralization has different variations, one of which is devolution; (2) in theory, devolution fundamentally changes government officials’ willingness to provide public services; (3) and empirically, this governance system has mixed consequences for public service delivery broadly and for the particular indicators that determine government responsiveness. The subsequent section examines devolution’s impact in two specific case study countries, Bolivia and Indonesia, both of which instituted broad and comprehensive decentralization programs in the wake of political unrest. Bolivia’s program strongly improved government responsiveness by more precisely matching total government spending with local needs. Alternatively, Indonesia’s re-structuring effort had more ambiguous results: the program was associated with rises in levels of corruption and inequality with minimal improvements in public service delivery. Because it is critical to consider all the major factors that could influence devolution’s success, the study then identifies and explores three characteristics of Iraq’s governance situation at present. Devolved governance could insulate the political system from the negative effects of the “resource curse,” while the country’s natural resource dependence would likely complicate devolution’s implementation. As well, this system could either ease or exacerbate sectarian tensions, while it would likely enhance state stability in light of the Kurdish region’s semi-autonomy within the state. This study concludes that devolution should be implemented in Iraq, though only once critical pre-conditions have been met. Such a re-structuring would have detrimental consequences if implemented prematurely.
Extent: 106 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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