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Decentralization and Development in the World’s First Black Republic

In Haiti, decentralization as a development tool has been a part of the political discourse for over thirty years, since the end of the 29-year father-son Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. However, Haiti’s recent progress – specifically in terms of fiscal decentralization – has been largely credited to the United States Agency for International Development’s Limyè ak Òganizasyon pou Kolektivite yo Ale Lwen (LOKAL+) program though it has not been readily apparent to what extent enhancements in local revenue have impacted public expenditures.

A mixed-methods case study analysis was therefore used to examine whether increases in local revenue during the LOKAL+ program have led to improved public expenditures in two of the nine target communes. Descriptive statistics from the nine treatment sites were also presented, using a dataset built from annual budgets for each of Haiti’s 140 communes from 2012 to 2015. Modest improvements in public service delivery were observed in the municipalities Saint Marc – the initial site for this particular intervention – and Delmas, which is credited with being Haiti’s most successful local government. At the same time, a need was observed for simultaneous accountability measures, such as citizen engagement, in order to minimize the threat of “local capture” or the likelihood of personalism influencing the overall delivery of public services. Despite this study’s findings, Haiti’s legacy of authoritarianism, manifested in a lack of political will on the part of critical central government actors, continues to curtail the extent to which decentralization might be able to facilitate widespread improvements in public service delivery throughout the country.