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Politics of Decentralization Policy: Explaining the Limited Success of Croatian Case after 2001

Petak, Zdravko; Kekez Koštro, Anka
Politics of Decentralization Policy: Explaining the Limited Success of Croatian Case after 2001 // IPSA RC32 Conference 2011: Developing policy in different cultural contexts: learning from study, learning from experience
Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2011. (predavanje, sažetak, ostalo)

Politics of Decentralization Policy: Explaining the Limited Success of Croatian Case after 2001

Petak, Zdravko ; Kekez Koštro, Anka

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, sažetak, ostalo

IPSA RC32 Conference 2011: Developing policy in different cultural contexts: learning from study, learning from experience

Mjesto i datum
Dubrovnik, Croatia, 10-12.06.2011.

Vrsta sudjelovanja

Vrsta recenzije
Neobjavljeni rad

Ključne riječi
Decentralistaion policy ; vertical policy dimension ; horizontal policy dimension ; policy failure ; implementation ; evidence-based policymaking

The Croatian “decentralisation package” from the mid 2001 has shown how multiple pressures for shifting power to the local level might end relatively unsuccessfully. The central government has handed over the control over the entire policy process by shifting responsibilities for certain educational, welfare and health services to the counties and municipalities. A decentralization initiative was excessively marked by the vertical policy dimension, expressed by the top down incentives of the central government to shift the responsibilities to the regional and local level. The central government bodies did not take into account the alternative proposals made by various policy actors ranging from academic institutions, researchers in NGO’s, associations of local government’s organizations etc. All these things have contributed to a relatively negligible influence of horizontal policy dimension on the decentralization outcome. The whole process could be described as centrally controlled decentralization or decentralization from the above. One of the illustrations of such a conclusion is the limited success in decentralizing operating educational costs to the city governments. Only one third of the cities have agreed to take part in the decentralization of educational services. Other two thirds of city governments simply calculated that their fiscal as well as their administrative capacity is insufficient to handle the new decentralized services. Decision “not to implement” adopted by this two thirds of city governments should not be primarily labelled as an implementation deficit, but also as a sign for doubtful legitimacy of the educational policy decentralization from the above. While accessing their own capacities for implementation of new decentralized services as insufficient, these cities have stated the request for more contextualized formulation or re- formulation of the “decentralisation package” in education. Taking into account the fact that “the decentralisation package” in health was concerned only with the counties and not the cities, the limited scope of decentralization is becoming more evident. Moreover, limited scope and success of decentralization policy is even more vivid in social policy which is characterized by parallel, but not coherent, de-concentration, decentralization and devolution processes. Croatian social policy is formulated and implemented in rather fragmented territorial and institutional context with different territorial authorities often intervening in the management, delivery and planning of social services. In the context of institutional pluralisation, users are often in-between, but not in the focus of, fragmented services provided by de-concentrated local state branches, as well as county and local level authorities and their institutions. With limited engagement in the design of social policy decentralization, horizontal actors, primarily NGOs, enter social policy arena in the process of policy implementation. Taking over substitutive instead of complementary role, NGOs often act as substitutive service providers and case managers searching for connections among institutional service providers and complementarities among fragmented decentralized social services. Who decided to run things in this way or who designed the possibilities for decentralization? Public officials in the central government bodies devised their decentralization proposals on the basis of interdepartmental meetings at which assistants of ministers re-calculated in ballpark figures about the precise portions of educational, welfare or health services that might be taken on by counties or cities. The policy experts for decentralization connected with the domestic and international think tanks and NGOs, who had contributed considerable expertise on alternative proposals for decentralization, did not play substantial role in formulating decentralization policy. The Croatian case has confirmed the critical role of evidence-based policy for successful devolution policy in one country. By comparing Hungarian and Slovakian decentralization case some policy scholars showed that the relative success of devolution in Hungary should be credited to the fact that the Hungarian Institute of Public Administration had been prepared a very good policy basis for decentralization during the late 1980s. It appears that the Croatian case is more similar to the Slovakian case, labelled by the missing comprehensive decentralization plan made by think tanks. The only difference was the fact that decision-makers in Croatia were reluctant to put at the agenda the model that has been prepared by various policy experts sitting outside government. This fact is explained in the paper by the limited role of policy analysis in the specific Croatian institutional settings connected with formulating and legitimizing public policy. The basic hypothesis is that limited scope in employing policy analysis is not confined only to the role of horizontal policy actors, but also to the limited role of policy analysis in the work of Croatian policy bureaucracy. In further development of hypothesis, the paper ties the limited role of policy analysis in formulating and legitimizing Croatian “decentralisation package” with evident trends of policy de-legitimization and re-formulation as well as with territorial and institutional services fragmentation, both present in the implementation of decentralized policies.

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Projekt / tema
015-0000000-2474 - Hrvatska i EU: integracijske strategije i kreiranje javnih politika (Luka Brkić, )

Fakultet političkih znanosti, Zagreb