A Tale of Two Upazilas: Local Governance and Social Development in Bangladesh
LSE Development Studies Institute Working Paper No. 07-82
34 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2008
Date Written: May 2007
Decentralization is commonly advocated as a means to improve primary services and hence accelerate social development. Although theory supports this position, empirical evidence is ambiguous. This paper examines whether local governance can improve social development empirically, with detailed evidence on good and bad cases of public service effectiveness in Bangladesh. We examine the institutional underpinnings of service provision, digging down beneath the rules of the game to analyze the beliefs, understandings and dispositions that drive social behavior. We find that changes in attitudes, which led to improvements in social indicators, coincided with rising educational levels, and training and outreach by NGOs. But such changes affected all of Bangladesh in similar ways. Regional variation in social outcomes is explained by the presence in certain areas of a dense web of relationships that enmeshed such advances, and their protagonists, in local systems of authority and legitimacy, strengthening their actions and making local society more susceptible to change.
Keywords: local governance, decentralization, accountability, social development, Bangladesh, Asia
JEL Classification: D71, H41, H42, H72, I18, O18, Z10
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