Many claims are made in favour of decentralisation, ranging from the democratising potential of increased scope for participation and accountability through to poverty reduction and improved service delivery.
Much of the literature and evidence centres on the intrinsic value of decentralisation as a desirable goal in its own right. But the arguments for the developmental significance of decentralisation rest principally on a series of assumptions and theoretical justifications.
Proponents of decentralisation base their assumptions on widely differing criteria, ranging from expected improvements in allocative efficiency, welfare and equity, through to increased participation, accountability and responsiveness on the part of local authorities.
Economists tend to frame their analysis in terms of the costs and benefits of decentralisation, while other social scientists and practitioners are generally concerned with processes and democratic aspects of the process (Blair 2000).