South Asia Economic Focus, Fall 2019: making (de)centralization work

Global GDP growth is decelerating, while trade and industrial production are stagnating. The slowdown has been severe in South Asia, which in recent quarters was no longer the fastest growing region in the world. In most South Asian countries, growth is expected to be below long-run averages this year but there is significant diversity evident in the high frequency data of industrial production. Current account deficits have declined, as is often the case during economic downturns. Inflation remains near target in most countries, but food price inflation is picking up. Growth forecasts for South Asia are revised downward considerably as uncertainty in global markets and a worsening global outlook have become more important drivers of the forecast. The expected modest recovery to 6.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent in 2021 is tentative as forecasts under current circumstances, particularly for investment, are highly uncertain. In many countries across the region, further decentralization is a high policy priority. These policies are part of a global decentralization trend, which aims to improve local service delivery. Empirical evidence of the effectiveness of decentralization is mixed, a result which is often attributed to partial decentralization. Successful development requires both decentralization and centralization at the same time. In the interplay between central and local governments, the allocation of resources plays a crucial role. In South Asia, a lack of geospatial data on expenditure and development outcomes remains a major constraint.

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