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The Administrative Theory of
“The only way to control chaos and complexity is to give up some of that control”
Gyan Nagpal. This quote represents the reality behind the rising new public
management techniques, specifically decentralization. Decentralization is considered
the opposing idea of a former theory, centralization, implemented during the trend and
era of traditional public administration. Centralization is when decision-making is solely
focused at the central government, which results in the government’s alienation and
isolation from the public. The top-down nature of centralization also makes it flawed in
the eyes of the public, and as a theory itself. The introduction of decentralization hence
eliminates the criticisms and hindrance of centralization. By definition, decentralization
is an administrative theory that involves moving decision making from central
government closer to the local and regional authorities, and responds to demands of
diversity. Therefore, the introduction to the theory of decentralization led to its
widespread implementation during the late 1980s. This paper aims to tackle to concept
of administrative decentralization in its many forms, the driving forces behind it,
conditions where it is most effective and its downsides. Being a citizen in Jordan, I also
aim to answer the question as to how decentralization is implemented in Jordan and
give my personal analysis upon my findings.
Administrative decentralization is not a standard theory in itself, it comes in two major
forms being deconcentration and devolution. The first form introduced after the trend
of centralization was deconcentration; authority and decision making are at the central
level leaving only implementation of decisions to be decentralized. Therefore, this form
obtains a similar traditional hierarchical structure to centralization, where orders flow
from higher to lower levels. In addition, the local government is accountable to the
central government. The reason why this form of decentralization is considered one of
the weakest forms of decentralization is because although it is a great step away from
the total concentrated authority of centralization, it still remains limiting in its freedom
and autonomy. This ultimately resulted in its criticism, one including the disengagement
of local authority and citizens. Therefore, upon the failure on deconcentration, the
introduction of devolution was considered the more idealistic, radical and favored form
of decentralization. Devolution is the type of decentralization where all authority is
decentralized, and the accountability is towards to local population. The term devolution
comes from “devolving” of functions, meaning the transferring of power from central to
lower levels. This form also eliminated the weaknesses regarding deconcentration and
improved the idea of decentralization where local citizens and lower levels can exercise
more power and have more freedom in decision policy making, hence increasing their
overall empowerment and satisfaction.
The implementation of decentralization is not a decision at random. There are several
driving forces that motivate governments to implement it within their structure. One of
the reasons is that decentralization results in more effective decision making due to
increased mobility, as the local levels will hugely impact decision making by increasing
exposure and responsiveness to the current needs and complaints of the general
public. Therefore, this will also increase the public institutions efficiency and
performance when making decisions, as they would not be exhausting their recourses
when implementing the unfavored decision in the eyes of the public (and in the long run,
the party). Decentralization also supports the involvement of subordinates, which
increasing their motivation and satisfaction with the decisions, as well as their level of
empowerment. When authority is decentralized, accountability is spread across the
individuals rather than being the center government, which may be considered a driving
force. If implemented correctly, decentralization could reduce poverty as transparency
and responsiveness is increased. This consequently allows the party to respond to the
socio-economic factors and other factors that could potentially result in poverty and
hence reduce the risk of systemic failure. However, not all these driving forces will be
noticed unless the party recognizes and meets the essential conditions.
In order to achieve the maximum benefits of decentralization, important criteria must be
met. If not, the party will notice few of at most-not any of the advantages mentioned
above. Alongside having sufficient recourses, building accountability and coordination
mechanisms, clearly assigned responsibilities, the major contributor to the success of
decentralization within a governments structure is its citizen’s participation. That is,
because decentralization should be a principle of dual satisfaction between the party of
the people, the party will benefit more if its people are involved. Involving the people in
the participation process could be direct, meaning that the citizens directly engage in
the decision-making process regarding matters that they value. Or the participation
could be indirect, which is a limited role that involves citizens involvement though the
representatives they elect. Some mechanisms of participation include elections,
surveys, town meetings, direct community, exit, participatory planning and budgeting,
monitoring and evaluation. Therefore, to achieve successful decentralization, the
government efforts should place its people in the center acknowledging the prominent
correlation between participation and performance.
As idealistic and faultless the implementation of decentralization seems, it not a
panacea (--) and may lead to some disadvantages. To begin with, the implementation of
any administrative theory has to be weighed with the culture and nature of the party
itself. For some parties, the implementation of such theory will not be fitted for services
that are originally routine-based, therefore instead of receiving higher efficiency and
effectiveness, the government will anticipate quite the opposite as well as experiencing
loss in the economies of scale. Therefore, before implementation, the party should
assess its strengths and weaknesses whether this reform corresponds with the nature
of the service.
Jordan is one of the countries that implements decentralization. The emergence of
decentralization in Jordan was an effort to achieve its vision of empowering citizens to
participate in decision making process, which will enhance governates potential.
Through decentralization, the elected councils are held accountable and recognize
citizen needs and wants consequently improve responsiveness and improve its services
(Hani al Mulki, 2017). The process of decentralization is aimed to delegate authority
including financial and administrative power in decision making and to increase its
effectives, it aims to focus of service delivery in terms of policy and regulatory functions.
Also, the central governments roles of responsibilities will be affected through the
incorporation of decentralization. Hence the responsiveness will increase drastically
especially when the duplication of roles is eliminated, and the governate will be
positioned closer to the people. The major focus of decentralization centers on
increasing citizen participation within its structure in order to improve the connection
between the governates and the people, this includes promoting transparency and
I agree with this statement to a great extent. The idea of decentralization is considered the
opposing theory to centralization, meaning that decision making extends farther than only to
higher levels. The underlying purpose of decentralization is to improve the efficiency, resourse
allocation, accountability and overall result in dual satisfaction between the people and the
government. Participation and involvement of the people whether directly or indirectly will
institutionalize citizens vote and voice, and will improve the governments adaptation hence
increasing public awareness. Hence decentralization, which is considered as a public reform
trajectory, is solely effective if it places the people as its core. The party should understand the
importance of connecting to the people, as there is a strong link between participation and
performance. To conclude, I strongly believe the implementation of decentralization is done with
and for the people or else, the implementation is hypocritical.