Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Allan Rosenbaum

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Sukumar Ganapati

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Milena Neshkova

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Eduardo Gamarra

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Decentralization, intergovernmental relations, health, education, service provision, Colombia, Paraguay

Date of Defense



The purpose of this research is to examine the factors that have influenced political decentralization in Paraguay and Colombia and how the new intergovernmental relations that result in political, fiscal and policy decentralization impact local governments and their capacity to deliver public services. The research, building on institutional theory, places particular emphasis on trying to explain and understand how intergovernmental relations shape the decentralization—and effectiveness—of public service delivery to local and regional governments, particularly in the areas of health and education.

The research method is principally a path-dependent within-cases analysis. The analysis traces how the processes of decentralization evolved from 1990 to 2010. Special attention is given to critical junctures, or special political or social circumstances, that have significantly changed the process of decentralization. Data was collected mainly through reviews of documents, journals and newspapers, and most significantly through elite interviews “tailored to the purposes of the study” (Aberbach & Rockman, 2002). Leaders of political parties, unions, non-governmental-organizations and civic movements were interviewed in both countries.

The research shows that political parties play a very important role, not only in the design and implementation of decentralization of public service delivery, but also in sustaining and furthering the process. The analysis is based on the assumption that increased decentralization of health and education to local and regional levels should positively impact basic health and education indicators. If decentralization, as argued, helps governments to be more responsive to local needs, and if more health and education programs are decentralized to the local and regional level in response to the demands of many communities, it is predicted that health and education indicators would improve, as people would have easier access to these services.

Analysis of health and education indicators in the form of infant mortality rates (deaths of children under one year old, live births) and school enrollment show mixed results for both Colombia and Paraguay.





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