Mario Crucini, Oscar O’Flaherty, 29 May 2021

Throughout much of 2020, the Trump administration deferred decision making regarding stay-at-home orders to the state and local level. The data-driven analysis in this column suggests that a national stay-at-home order at the onset of the pandemic, when the virus was spreading primarily in a small group of cities, may have imposed earlier and deeper economic costs on states with relatively low case numbers without any corresponding reduction in infection rates in such states. But as the virus spread more uniformly across the country in the last several months of 2020, a nationwide order seemed more appropriate. The findings demonstrate the value of public policy discretion at the state and local level when it comes to implementing stay-at-home orders with the simultaneous and competing goals of minimising community spread and business dislocation. 

Yohan Iddawela, Neil Lee, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 21 February 2021

Differences in the quality of local and regional governments and their implications for development have attracted considerable attention, especially in Europe and Asia. In Africa, the recent drive towards decentralisation has, however, neglected how variations in the quality of sub-national governments affect development prospects. This column addresses this gap in knowledge by measuring variations in subnational government quality in 22 African countries, and connecting these variations to differences in levels of development across the continent. The quality of sub-national governments is an important driver of economic development in African regions.

Martin Ravallion, 22 May 2019

Even when the central government is committed to a jobs guarantee, rationing of work opportunities can arise under decentralised implementation in poor places. This column examines India’s efforts to implement such a scheme and finds that there are two main drivers of this rationing: local administrative costs and local corruption. Partial administrative reforms by the centre can have perverse effects. Deeper policy reforms are needed to assure that stipulated rights for poor people are attained in practice.

Mengjia Ren, Lee Branstetter, Brian Kovak, Daniel Armanios, Jiahai Yuan, 16 March 2019

Despite leading the world in clean energy investment in recent years, China continues to engage in massive expansion of coal power thanks to policies that effectively subsidise and (over)incentivise coal power investment. This column examines the effects of the 2014 devolution of authority from the central government to local governments on approvals for coal power projects. It finds that the approval rate for coal power projects is about three times higher when the approval authority is decentralised, and provinces with larger coal industries tend to approve more coal power.

Antonio Fatás, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 07 May 2018

Economists have been dismissive of cryptocurrencies, but fintech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts continue to see their disruptive potential. This column considers the theoretical and practical arguments on both sides of the debate. Traditional currencies are overwhelmingly superior as forms of money, and cryptocurrencies’ advantage in terms of lax regulation is unlikely to last. There remains, however, ample potential for innovation in payment systems.

Joan Costa-i-Font, 22 August 2012

National healthcare systems are under financial pressure around the globe. One commonly suggested reform involves decentralisation. This column argues that the success of healthcare decentralisation depends on the political and design incentives. But if successful decentralisation is achieved, it can result in higher satisfaction and more fairness at no additional cost.

Ejaz Ghani, Lakshmi Iyer, Saurabh Mishra, 10 April 2012

What policies can narrow the huge gap between the rich and the poor within India and other South Asian countries? One way is to devolve power to local governments in the hope they can better target the poverty. This column argues that simply directing financial resources to poor regions is not enough and needs to be complemented with increases in capacity and accountability of the local authorities.

Vassilis Tselios, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Andy Pike, John Tomaney, Gianpiero Torrisi, 15 October 2011

Devolution can have incongruous effects on equality. Decentralisation of powers and resources to lower tiers of government can either increase or reduce interpersonal inequalities, depending on characteristics of the devolved region. This column uses data from regions of Western Europe to show that greater fiscal decentralisation is associated with lower income inequality.

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