What Makes a Difference in Decentralised Local Government?Empirical Analysis from the Philippines

  • Risako Ishii

Student thesis: Phd


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the differences across the decentralised local governments in the Philippines, considering the gaps between them in terms of achievements after two decades of decentralisation practice.In the first part of the thesis, preceding literatures on decentralisation are carefully reviewed, and arguments with different theoretical roots are covered. Based on the implications obtained from this theoretical review, the thesis defines its own analytical framework. First, it identifies the expected outcomes of decentralisation reform, namely, improvement of service delivery and enhancement of participation, which are commonly recognised as goals by the authors of different theoretical approaches to decentralisation and also intended in the decentralisation reform of the Philippines. Second, this thesis employs perspectives of 'soft'-oriented organisational change theories, including empowerment theories, given its analysis that much portion of the critical views on decentralisation discusses practical drawbacks of the reform, rather than theoretical ones, particularly 'mechanistic' introduction of the reform. Hence, this thesis highlights organic change that is associated with 'soft' factors of the government organisation, which have received scant attention in preceding works. More precisely, among so-called 'soft' organisational factors, leadership, motivation, and organisational culture and climate are investigated along with other factors, such as distributed autonomies, human resource management system, and external relations. Third, this thesis identifies the advantages of micro-level analysis over the macro-level approaches of the preceding work. This is reflected in the methodologies adopted in the thesis, which consisted of empirical case studies of six local governments across the country.A comparative analysis led to the following conclusions: all organisational change factors considered in this thesis organically relate with each other. While an ideal model of organisational change - dynamic and 'soft'-oriented change led by 'transformational' leader - is identified, the potential to achieve the expected outcomes exists even where such change has not been experienced, particularly if the staff are allowed to exercise their autonomies. Nevertheless, there is no single success model for ensuring that a local government becomes a good performer. What can be clearly said is that 'mechanic' arrangements provided by the national decentralisation reform would not lead to the expected outcomes. Organic change factors of decentralised local government definitely need to be considered to obtain the desired goals.This thesis contributes not only to the academic discourses on decentralisation, but also to those on the Philippines studies that emphasised continuities of local governments and did not realise impacts of decentralisation by highlighting the changes achieved in all studied local governments. Furthermore, it carries implications for international donors who want to make their future assistances to decentralised local government more effective.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMohammad Farhad Hossain (Supervisor) & Christopher Rees (Supervisor)

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