New Waves of Decentralization in Southeast Asia

Interim Report

Edited by Fumio Nagai,Tsuruyo Funatsu,Kazuhiro Kagoya

Published in March 2019

chapter 1

In the 1990s and 2000s, after the collapse of the authoritarian regimes in the Philippines, Indonesia’s and Thailand’s decentralization was followed by democratization. While some repercussions were observed following decentralization, local governance became widely accepted and consolidated. Indonesia and the Philippines even elected presidents who had been successful as municipal mayors. Local leadership, therefore, became an important career path in these countries.

Decentralization is observed in a sense as a universal phenomenon. Decentralization took place in former communist regimes in post-Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, and in developing countries in Africa and Latin America. Decentralization was considered one of the important conditions for former communist regime in Eastern Europe to join in the European Union. In many cases, decentralization was an important component in structural adjustment plans requested by international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the United Nations Development Program, for development assistance in Africa and Latin America. Decentralization is considered an important measure to remedy the adverse effects of over-centralization and to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of policy implementation. People’s participation in the development planning and implementation by local governments is also strongly recommended. The Japan International Cooperation Agency also has various programs to enhance the capacity of local governments in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Japan was not exceptional in its provision of aid or in its decentralization. With the world facing the end of the Cold War and an increase of expenditures in social securities and national deficits, decentralization was promoted in the 1990s and 2000s. In order to facilitate the comprehensive community care system, many local governments were recommended to merge to strengthen fiscal basis. As a result, the number of local governments in Japan decreased from 3,234 in 1995 to 1,718 in 2013 almost by a half.

Thus, decentralization is considered to be one of the mega trends in the world, in particular, after the end of the Cold War. Many studies have been conducted on decentralization. Most research on decentralization and local governance is country-specific. Comparative research on decentralization and local governance does exist, but these studies tend to compare national characteristics among OECD developed countries. Systematic in-depth research on individual local governments from a comparative perspective is still lacking. Regarding country-specific research on decentralization and local governance, quantitative research focuses on local elections and local finance. Systematic research on the ideas and behavioral patterns of local government elites, including bureaucrats, is quite rare. Some reports by the World Bank on local governance focus on particular countries, but in most cases local governments are not selected based on random sampling; seemingly, representative local governments are intentionally selected.

According to Charles M. Tiebout, a public finance specialist, local governments will compete with each other and better public service will be delivered if local residents move flexibly according to the contents provided by each local government (Tiebout 1956). This hypothesis is called “voting with their feet,” because local residents can choose their preferred local governments by moving their address. However, it is not clear if this hypothesis is supported by empirical studies.

As a result, several questions arise: Does decentralization promote democracy? Does decentralization enhance the quality of public service delivered to local residents by local governments? Does decentralization enhance the performance of local governments? If so, what factors contribute to this phenomenon? Is the idea of “good governance,” recommended by international organizations, widely accepted and implemented in developing countries? These questions are explored this study.

Needless to say, the free and fair election of municipal mayors and local councilors are indispensable preconditions for this kind of research. Local governments should be empowered and secured in fiscal terms in order to implement public policies. The quality of public policies may heavily rely on socioeconomic conditions, such as industrial structure, degree of urbanization, topographical characteristics, and the gap between the rich and the poor. However, other factors, such as social attributes of municipal mayors and top local bureaucrats, relationships between local governments and stakeholders, the central government, national politicians, local politicians, local heads, and even local residents, are also influential. This study is very interested in those other factors in the analysis of local governance of Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, three major countries in Southeast Asia.

chapter 2

A Local Governance Survey in Indonesia(433KB)/ Masaaki Okamoto, Yosuke Sunahara

This paper presents the results of a local governance survey on Indonesia’s Java Island as part of a project entitled “Local Government Survey in Southeast Asia: Comparison among Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines” (Principal Investigator: Nagai Fumio). The project was supported by JSPS Kakenhi Grant Number 21252003 (FY2009-2012) .

The aim of this project was to analyze the extent of local governments’ autonomy and the impact it had on their performance in three countries: Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This paper focuses on the survey results in Indonesia while other papers will present the results from Thailand and the Philippines. Finally, all results will be integrated to conduct a comparative analysis on local government autonomy and performance in the three countries studied.

The project members started discussing common themes for the three countries in FY2009 and soon thereafter prepared the guidelines for the questionnaires used in each country’s survey, referring to the previous local elite survey completed in Thailand by Nagai and others in FY2006. The project members were divided into three teams and each team was responsible for one country. The questionnaires were tailored to each country and a preliminary test was conducted. The Indonesian study team decided to work with the Indonesia Survey Institute (Lembaga Survei Indonesia, hereafter LSI) as the implementing agency for the questionnaire survey in Indonesia. The Indonesian study team had a series of discussions with the LSI staff and also with university professors and high-ranking officers in the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to improve the questionnaire. The team also visited several districts (kabupaten) and cities (kota) in West Java province and Banten province in January 2010 as well as in North Sulawesi province in March 2011 in order to conduct the preliminary test.

This was the first large-scale local elite survey conducted in Indonesia so the Indonesian study team proceeded with the research through trial and error. At first, the team planned to conduct the elite survey for local government heads (kepala daerah) and also for local government secretaries (sekretaris daerah, sekda), covering the entire country. The team decided to conduct the survey not by sending the questionnaires to be filled out, but by interviewing the government officials face-to-face. The team assumed that the return rate would be quite low if the team tried to complete the survey only by post. The team also soon encountered some difficulties in covering the whole of Indonesia, even with a sampling method, because of financial and time constraints. The team also discovered it was difficult to schedule interviews with local government heads because they were normally quite busy and not used to being interviewed with questionnaires. Based on these considerations, the team decided to focus not on the local government heads but on the highest local government officer, the local government secretary, in each of the 112 districts and cities on Java Island (except for the five non-autonomous cities and one district in the special province of Jakarta). The LSI staff began conducting the interviews using the questionnaire in November 2011. The study team also sent the questionnaire survey by mail to all of the local government heads in the country with an attached letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs, but the return rate was less than ten percent.

The elite survey for local government secretaries in Java went smoothly thanks to the hard work of LSI and as a result, 103 out of the 112 local government secretaries responded to the questionnaire. The total response rate was 92.0%. Of the nine local government secretaries who did not respond to the questionnaire, some were from districts or cities where the direct local head elections were being held or were going to be held soon. It seems that they were afraid of the politicization of survey results on the elections. Others refused to respond to the questionnaire because their local government heads did not give them permission to do so. The team successfully achieved the high response rate of 92.0% mainly because of the LSI’s vast network and careful preparations. LSI chose and trained fifteen surveyors who had master’s degrees or were knowledgeable in surveying local governments.

chapter 3

This paper presents the results of a local elite survey of local governments in the Philippines as part of the project entitled “Local Government Survey in Southeast Asia: Comparative Research on Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines” (Principal Investigator: Nagai Fumio). The project was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Kakenhi Grant Number 21252003 (FY2009-2012). The aim of this project was to perform a comparative analysis of the extent of decentralization and the impact of the autonomy of local governments on local governance and the performance of local governments in the three countries abovementioned.

The project members began preparatory work in 2009, including making drafts of questionnaires, conducting pretests, and revising questionnaires based on the results of the pretests. Through repetition of this process, we finalized the questionnaires for the mayor and the city/municipal planning and development coordinator in the summer of 2011. We conducted pretests with the utmost care because this was the first large-scale elite survey of both local chief executives and high-ranking officials of local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines. We selected 20 LGUs based on region, fiscal class, and urban/rural categories, and conducted pretests at two different times in 2010. We found, through these pretests, that it is necessary to limit the length of the interviews to 20 minutes or less due to the local chief executives’ busy schedules. Based upon these findings, we carefully selected questions to reduce the volume of the questionnaires.

We performed a series of consultations with a public opinion social research institute in the Philippines (Social Weather Stations: SWS). Including these preparatory work on the questionnaires, we also consulted SWS on the survey methodology itself. At first, we explored the possibility of a postal mail survey. However, considering the postal conditions in the Philippines, we decided to conduct a face-to-face interview survey instead. We held several meetings with SWS to work out the details of the survey methodology because SWS did not have extensive experience in conducting this type of elite survey, although they had considerable experience with mass surveys.

Using systemic random sampling, we selected 300 municipalities/cities in 16 regions across 70 provinces among the total 1,515 municipalities/cities in 16 regions and 78 provinces in the country (as of March 1, 2011). We excluded the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) due to its political instability. The sample consisted of 93 cities and 207 municipalities: 170 governments in Luzon, 67 in Visayas, and 63 in Mindanao.

Interviews were commissioned to SWS and conducted with individual mayors and planning and development coordinators in each LGU. Interviews of the mayors were conducted from November 12, 2011 to November 27, 2012 and interviews of the planning and development coordinators were conducted from October 12, 2011 to April 19, 2012. The response rates were 100% for both mayors and planning and development coordinators.

From the next section, we present the results of a simple tabulation of data on mayors as well as planning and development coordinators. For some questions with multiple answers, the total frequencies exceed the sample size (300). We took 300 as the denominator, however, to indicate the percentage of LGUs that chose the answers among the total 300 LGUs.

Developing the capacity of government officials is key to improving governmental performance at the local level (Capuno 2011). The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has published its annual Local Government Performance Management System (LGPMS) report every year since 2009. The LGPMS defines the local government’s performance using the following five categories: Administrative Governance, Economic Governance, Social Governance, Valuing Fundamentals of Governance, and Environmental Governance. Performance of local government is an integral part of overall governance performance. It is important to know to what extent the Planning and Development Coordinator (PDC) is given the opportunity to develop their capacity.

In this survey, we asked about the frequency of attending seminars/workshops for capacity development purposes within the past year. About 12% of the respondents did not attend any seminars/workshops in the past year while 11% attended one, 15% attended two, and 62% attended more than two. In total, more than 90% of the respondents attended at least one seminar or workshop in the past year. Many of the seminars/workshops were organized and hosted by central agencies, the League of Local Planning and Development Coordinators of the Philippines (LLPDCPI), or donor agencies. PDCs working for local governments in rural areas may attend less often because the seminars/workshops tend to be held in the bigger cities. We checked for the differences in attendance rates between PDCs from cities and municipalities, but did not find any that were statistically significant. However, capacity development cannot be characterized based on seminar/workshop attendance alone; it is closely connected with the intellectual networks of each PDC, as well as his/her career and academic background. Therefore, a more in-depth analysis is needed.

chapter 4

A Local Governance Survey 2013 in Thailand(507KB)/ Tsuruyo Funatsu, Kazuhiro Kagoya, Fumio Nagai

This paper presents the results of a local governance survey 2013 in Thailand as part of the project entitled “Local Government Survey in Southeast Asia: Comparison among Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines” (principal investigator: Nagai Fumio). The project was financially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Kakenhi Grant Number 21252003 (FY2009-2012). The aim of this project was to make a comparative analysis of the extent of decentralization and its impact on the autonomy of local governments, and to evaluate the performance of local governance in these three Southeast Asian countries.

The Thai survey was composed of two parts: questions for local administrative organization (LAO) presidents and questions for LAO chief clerks. This paper first explains survey results with LAO presidents, and then presents only the tables of survey results for LAO chief clerks. As the samples of basic LAOs (urban municipalities and Tambon Administrative Organizations: TAOs) were separately selected in this survey, data that presents difference between municipalities and TAOs are compared in separate cross tabulations, while other data is shown in one cross tabulation to observe general tendencies of the survey results.