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Publication Details

Bond, Patrick (2008) Decentralization, privatization and countervailing
popular pressure: South African water commodification and decommodification.  : 1-19.

The decentralization of state services generally entails the shifting of delivery mandates from higher to lower scales but with fewer resources, a problem known as “unfunded mandates.” It is sometimes argued that the core economic objective behind decentralization is increased efficiency, but what this means in practice, as we will see in our case study, can better be termed “commodification.” Simultaneously, urban areas are under much more severe competitive pressures, as decentralized planning compels a shift to entrepreneurial management. The most extreme case may be the full transfer of state responsibilities to households, under the guise of “community-based management” and “participation.” In many rural areas suffering lack of state capacity, decentralization reflects a rollback of state service delivery commitments altogether.

These features of decentralization have had a devastating impact upon water/sanitation access for poor people, and throw into question the over-reliance upon decapacitated municipalities for essential state services such as water.

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