What Is In It for the Poor? Evidence From Fiscal Decentralization in Vietnam

Nguyen-Hoang, P.

Abstract

Like other developing countries, Vietnam has attempted to push for greater fiscal decentralization in the hope of a more efficient delivery of social services to targeted citizens. The fiscal decentralization initiative is encouraging and merits pursuit, but the present study however, shows that a misstep in the decentralization process can discriminate disproportionately against the poor. Specifically, an increase in the sub-provincial share of the total provincial expenditures is predicted to bring about an appreciable decrease in the lowest-quintile average monthly income. We suggest that the Vietnamese government require provinces to adopt pro-poor allocation norms rather than reclaiming its control over the provincial expenditure assignment. This paper’s empirical findings sound a note of considerable caution that other developing countries should exercise in their fiscal decentralization efforts to avoid creating unintended consequences for the poor.