Rethinking Fiscal Decentralization Policies in Developing Economies: A Case Study of Ghana
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This thesis invites geographers to pay more attention to public policy research by addressing the need to rethink fiscal decentralization policies in Ghana. By applying “Simandan’s wise stance in human geography” and “Grix’s building blocks of social research design”, I developed a conceptual framework that unites two incommensurable ontological and epistemological research positions in geography—the positive and normative positions. I used the framework to investigate two key research questions. First, does fiscal decentralization actually work in Ghana? Through quantitative analysis of empirical revenue and expenditure data (1994-2011) of local governments in Ghana, this study reveals significant issues of inefficiency, inequity, and unaccountability. Local governments generate less revenue, and therefore depend largely on central government transfers for developing their jurisdictions. Worse yet, these transfers are highly unpredictable in terms of amount and timing. Even though a multivariate regression analysis revealed that these transfers are apolitical, the actual disbursement formula tends to focus on equality instead of equity. Additionally, the unclear expenditure assignments in each locality make accountability difficult. In view of these problems, I addressed the question: why is fiscal decentralization held out as a good thing in Ghana? By drawing lessons from Foucault’s and Escobar’s critical discourse analysis, I traced a genealogy of Ghana’s fiscal decentralization. I found that the policy is held out as a good thing in Ghana because of the triangular operation of multiplicities of power, knowledge, and truth regimes at the local, national and international scale. I concluded that although nation-states remains a necessary causal link in fiscal decentralization policy process in Ghana, direct and indirect international involvement have profound effect on these policies. Therefore, rethinking fiscal decentralization involves acknowledging the complex intermingling effects that global, national, and local territories produce.