We study the effect of decentralization on the access to some poverty-related public services in Benin. Compiling panel data from local governments' accounts and from surveys on 18,000 Beninese households performed in 2006 and 2007, our study suggests that decentralization has a positive overall effect on access to basic services. However, this effect appears to be nonmonotone following an inverted U-shaped curve. It varies according to local jurisdictions' wealth and to the nature of basic services. Decentralization in Benin contributes positively to the reduction of poverty by improving the average access to poverty-related services. However, the devil is in the details, as decentralization seems to increase inequality among local governments in terms of access. Another result relying on the success of decentralization in Benin is the prioritization of basic services, which differs among local governments according to their wealth. While the poorest jurisdictions neglect primary education, focusing more on access to drinking water, the richest ones get less attention to sewage services, since these are already provided at a sufficiently high level.
Caldeira E., Foucault M. and Rota-Graziosi G. (2016) “Does Decentralization Facilitate Access to Poverty-Related Services? Evidence from Benin”, in Sebastian Edwards, Simon Johnson, et David N. Weil (Eds.) African Successes: Government and Institutions, University of Chicago Press. (Also http://www.nber.org/papers/w18118).