Paradigms of Decentralization, Institutional Design and Poverty: Drinking Water in the Philippines


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Satyajit Singh
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This paper looks at the different paradigms of decentralization for drinking water supply in the Philippines and its effectiveness in poverty alleviation. As centralization and decentralization are not definitive concepts, but defining features, there are bound to be different pathways to decentralization. Indeed, within a defined national path, there could be different ideological constructs of decentralization. These different paradigms create different institutional arrangements that are situated in the specific ideological construct of the time and place of its creation. With a shift in paradigm, say from one that can be classified as deconcentration to another that can be called democratic devolution; there would be key changes in the institutional designs for service provision. These different institutional designs of decentralization have different outcomes in the common quest of poverty alleviation. Empirical evidence points out that while new institutions would come up for fresh projects, the existing programs and projects that were crafted from an earlier paradigm continue at the same time. If the paradigm change has moved forward on the decentralization axis, then the adoption of newer institutions would have a better outcome in poverty alleviation. This paper calls for due attention of policy makers to address the concern of institutional transformation as one moves towards more progressive decentralization paradigms. The empirical evidence is provided from the Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project from the province of Oriental Negros.