Paul Smoke: The Emergence of Recentralization in Developing Countries: Forms, Motivations and Consequences

International Studies in Planning Spring 2013

Paul Smoke is professor of public finance and planning and director of International Programs at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He previously taught at MIT (1990–2001) and worked with the Harvard Institute for International Development (1986–90). His main research and policy interests include public sector decentralization and governance, fiscal reforms, and urban development in developing countries, primarily in East and Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. Smoke has written or edited several books and published in a various development, public finance, and public policy journals, and he has extensive experience with many international development organizations. He is currently coeditor of Public Administration and Development.   

Smoke's talk will examine the emergence of recentralization in developing countries and try to generate a debate on balancing central direction with local autonomy. "Some form of decentralization has been a nearly ubiquitous element of public sector reform in developing countries for the past two decades or more, with very different approaches and highly uneven results. Throughout this period, particularly in more recent years, recentralization has emerged in various ways and to various degrees in both policy debates and in practice. Some recentralization efforts have been very high profile, while others have occurred almost without being noticed. Dedicated literature on the topic is relatively limited or not explicitly framed as being on recentralization. What form is this phenomenon taking? Why is this happening? Is it likely to continue? What are the consequences?"