Housing & Community Development

Decentralization in Africa: Goals, Dimensions, Myths and Challenges

Decentralization in Africa: Goals, Dimensions, Myths and Challenges
Public Administration and Development, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Guest editor of this issue of the journal on "Decentralization and Local Governance in Africa.")

Smoke, P.
01/01/2003

Decentralisation is a complex and often somewhat elusive phenomenon. Many countries around the world have been attempting- for several reasons and with varying degrees of intention and success-to create or strengthen sub-national governments in recent years. Africa is no exception to either the decentralisation trend or the reality of its complexity and diversity. Drawing selectively on the large academic and practitioner literature on decentralisation and the articles in this volume, this article briefly outlines a number of typical prominent goals of decentralisation. It then reviews some key dimensions of decentralisation-fiscal, institutional and political. These are too frequently treated separately by policy analysts and policy makers although they are inherently linked. Next, a few popular myths and misconceptions about decentralisation are explored. Finally, a number of common outstanding challenges for improving decentralisation and local government reform efforts in Africa are considered.

Distinguishing Good Schools from Bad in Principle and Practice: A Comparison of Four Methods

Distinguishing Good Schools from Bad in Principle and Practice: A Comparison of Four Methods
in Developments in School Finance 2003, National Center for Education Statistics.

Schwartz, A.E., Rubenstein, R., Stiefel, L. & Bel Hadj Amor, H.
01/01/2003

For over a decade, perhaps no other issue in education has generated the same level of debate and policy activity as school accountability. At their most basic, accountability policies tie school rewards and sanctions to measures of school performance, typically specified as either performance levels (for example, aggregate percentile ranks or the percentage of students meeting specified benchmarks) or changes in performance (for example, increases in aggregate test scores or in the percentage of students meeting benchmarks). While most accountability efforts have been enacted at the state and local level, the peak of this movement may be the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which requires states to demonstrate adequate yearly progress in reading and mathematics performance by school and by subgroups within schools. Common to these reform efforts is the underlying notion that incentives based upon measures of school performance will spur improvements in student performance.

Erosion and Reform from the Center in Kenya

Erosion and Reform from the Center in Kenya
in James Wunsch and Dele Olowu, eds., Local Governance in Africa: The Challenges of Democratic Decentralization. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers,

Smoke, P.
01/01/2003

Kenya has a rich history of local governance, both from ethnic-group traditions and the system set up during the British colonial era, when local governments were fairly independence (1963), when Kenya's economy and population growth accelerated, demands were so heavy that some local governments could not deliver key services adequately. This situation, combined with the central government's desire for political consolidation to minimize ethnic power conflicts that increased in the postcolonial era, prompted the government to weaken local authorities. Key services (health, education, major roads) were recentralized, and the local graduated personal tax (GPT) was taken over by the center. Grants were established to compensate local governments for their revenue losses, but they were gradually phased out. Control over local governments expanded, with few spending, revenue, or employment decisions permitted without scrutiny by the Ministry of Local Government (MLG).

Facing the Challenge of Evaluating a Complex, Multi-Site Initiative

Facing the Challenge of Evaluating a Complex, Multi-Site Initiative
The Evaluation Exchange, a quarterly publication of the Harvard Family Research Project, Fall, V IX: 3.

Weitzman, B.C. & Silver, D.S.
01/01/2003

To overcome some of the limitations of experimental and quasi-experimental designs, evaluators have employed a
"theory of change" (TOC) approach to evaluate comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs). This approach helps identify underlying assumptions, focuses on processes and systems within communities, clarifies desired outcomes, and embraces the complexity of comprehensive interventions. Yet some researchers question the adequacy of TOC to address rival hypotheses to explain findings.

Has Falling Crime Driven New York City’s Real Estate Boom?

Has Falling Crime Driven New York City’s Real Estate Boom?
Journal of Housing Research, Volume 14, Issue 1, pages 101-135.

Schwartz, A.E., Susin, S. & Voicu, I.
01/01/2003

New York City experienced a dramatic decrease in crime over the past decade. This article examines whether this drop has driven the city's post-1994 real estate boom. Using data that include detailed information about properties sold in New York City-including actual transaction prices-as well as information about crime, schools, and housing investment between 1998 and 1999, the authors employ both hedonic and repeat-sales house price models to analyze the relative impact of these factors on the city's property values.

The results demonstrate that falling crime rates are responsible for roughly one-third of the total post-1994 real price appreciation of property. Education quality and subsidized housing investment were each responsible for roughly 20 percent of the increase. The authors also point out that during the earlier property value bust, crime and education played a relatively small role, while subsidized housing investment seems to have played a large role.

Is Microfinance an Effective Strategy to Reach the Millenium Development Goals?

Is Microfinance an Effective Strategy to Reach the Millenium Development Goals?
Focus Note No. 24. Washington, DC: Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. July

Morduch, J., Hashemi, S. & Littlefield, E.
01/01/2003

The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have galvanized the development community with an urgent challenge to improve the welfare of the world's neediest people. This paper reviews the mounting body of evidence showing that the availability of financial services for poor households is a critical contextual factor with strong impact on the achievement of MDGs. Evidence from the millions of microfinance clients around the world demonstrates that access to financial services enables poor people to increase their household incomes, build assets, and reduce their vulnerability to the crises that are so much a part of their daily lives.

ITS Challenges for the Tri-State Metro Region

ITS Challenges for the Tri-State Metro Region
New York Transportation Journal, Winter 2003, Vol. 6, No. 2.

de Cerreño, A.L.C.
01/01/2003

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) have gone beyond futuristic ideals and are becoming mainstream tools for managing highway and transit systems, as well as for providing information to the public. ITS has shown itself to be a cost-effective means for making best use of the current transportation system in an environment where the ability to expand capacity has become increasingly more difficult and expensive. There are several projects already in place at the regional level (e.g. E-ZPass, Transcom's IRVIN system, and MetroCard) and at the local level (e.g. sub-area traffic management centers and transit system real-time train information systems). More major ITS systems are expected in the next few years.

Natural Hazards Research & Applications Information

Natural Hazards Research & Applications Information
Center, Public Entity Risk Institute, and Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, Beyond September 11th: An Account of Post-Disaster Research. Special Publication #39. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado. ISBN 1877943169.

Zimmerman, R.
01/01/2003

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, resulted in a disaster that was unusual in U.S. experience in a number of ways: the densely developed and populated disaster site (in New York City); the type of buildings and infrastructure that were damaged; the fact that the disaster was the result of an intentional act; and the sheer scope of the emergency response that was needed. These characteristics provided an unprecedented opportunity for the natural hazard research community to help better understand what happened through programs such as the University of Colorado at Boulder's Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center's Quick Response research program and the National Science Foundation's Small Grants for Exploratory Research. Both programs enabled scholars to enter the field quickly to collect perishable data in the days and weeks after September 11th.

This volume collects the findings, lessons, and recommendations of this post-September 11 disaster research. Consisting of 20 selections by researchers who received grants to investigate questions that arose in the wake of the disaster, each piece takes a distinct view on topics ranging from engineering to behavioral science. Also included are a summary of what this post-September 11th research tells us, an overview of "quick response" as a research method, and a report of the preliminary observations made by researchers and first responders at a workshop held only a few months after the disaster.

New Hope for Families and Children: Five-Year Results of a Program to Reduce Poverty and Reform Welfare

New Hope for Families and Children: Five-Year Results of a Program to Reduce Poverty and Reform Welfare

Huston, A., Miller, C., Richburg-Hayes, L., Duncan, G.J., Eldred, C.A., Weisner, T.S., Lowe, E., McLoyd, V.C., Crosby, D.A., Ripke, M.N. & Redcross, C.
01/01/2003

The principle guiding the New Hope Project — a demonstration program that was implemented in two inner-city areas in Milwaukee from 1994 through 1998 — was that anyone who works full time should not be poor. New Hope offered low-income people who were willing to work full time several benefits, each of which was available for three years: an earnings supplement to raise their income above the poverty level; subsidized health insurance; subsidized child care; and, for people who had difficulty finding full-time work, referral to a wage-paying community service job. The program was designed to increase employment and income as well as use of health insurance and licensed child care, and it was hoped that children would be the ultimate beneficiaries of these changes. A team of researchers at MDRC and the University of Texas at Austin is examining New Hope’s effects in a largescale random assignment study. This interim report from the study focuses on the families and children of the 745 sample members who had at least one child between the ages of 1 and 10 when they entered the study. The new findings draw on administrative records and survey data covering the period up to five years after study entry (Year 5), that is, two years after the program ended. A final report will examine New Hope’s effects after eight years.

Restructuring Local Government Finance in Developing Countries: Lessons from South Africa

Restructuring Local Government Finance in Developing Countries: Lessons from South Africa
Edited with R. Bahl. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing,

Smoke, P.
01/01/2003

Examining cutting-edge issues of international relevance in the ongoing redesign of the South African local government fiscal system, the contributors to this volume analyze the major changes that have taken place since the demise of apartheid. The 1996 Constitution and subsequent legislation dramatically redefined the public sector, mandating the development of democratic local governments empowered to provide a wide variety of key public services. However, the definition and implementation of new local functions and the supporting democratic decision-making and managerial capabilities are emerging more slowly than expected. Some difficult choices and challenges commonly faced by developing countries must be dealt with before the system can evolve to more effectively meet the substantial role envisioned for local governments.

Pages

Subscribe to Housing & Community Development