The Politics of Decentralisation and Donor Funding in South Africa’s Rural Water Sector

funding donors Governance and Democracy
Monday, 15 December, 2003 - 00:00

Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 29, No. 4, 2003. CCS.

Extract from the Paper

Decentralisation is an inherently political process. Political and socio-economic actors favour it because it is seen to advance their interests. But the interests of the various social groups in society differ quite dramatically. Societal interest groups concerned with poverty and economic inequalities advocate decentralisation because it is seen to bring development closer to the people, promote participatory approaches, and consolidate democracy.

Other interest groups, such as state technocrats, support decentralisation because of a belief that it will lead to the more efficient delivery of services. And still others, such as economic elites, advocates decentralization in the hope that it will undermine the regulatory capacity and lead to the shrinkage of the national state. This coincidence in motives, as James Manor recognizes, accounts for the widespread support for decentralization among political actors across the ideological spectrum.

The evolution of decentralisation as a cornerstone of development orthodoxy is most evident in its treatment as a central theme in the World Development Reports of the World Bank. It is also evident in the development literature which builds on this by emphasising the importance of state-society partnerships at the local level and their synergy for development.

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