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The Potholed Road to De-centralization: An explorative study of Service Delivery in Karachi
Ammar Khalid (IDEAS) and Kabeer Dawani (CSSR)
THE POTHOLED ROAD TO
EXPLORATIVE STUDY OF
SERVICE DELIVERY IN KARACHI
Presented at the 10th Annual HSS LUMS Conference, Lahore on
5th March 2016
• There has been a global trend of countries decentralizing
state responsibilities to lower tiers of government
• Emerging realization that centralized service delivery is
“systematically failing - and especially failing poor
people.” (Ahmed et al, 2005)
• Our work focuses on the relationship of decentralization
and urban service delivery
• Pakistan has urbanized rapidly in recent decades – some
claim that more than half of Pakistan is now urbanized.
• Karachi has grown exponentially over the years, putting
stress on its resources and its ability to deliver services.
• One of the benefits of decentralization, widely cited in
the literature, is the increase in accountability, and
subsequently improved service delivery.
Literature on Decentralization
• Three types of decentralization:
• Proponents of decentralization argue that it results in (Tanzi, 1995)
• Greater accountability
• Allocative efficiency due to proximity to beneficiary
• However, decentralization can face problems (Ahmad et al, 2005)
• Elite capture
• Lack of capacity at the sub-national level
• Misaligned responsibilities
• No consensus on efficiency of decentralization with regards to
service delivery, particularly in Pakistan
Gaps in the Literature
• Vast literature on decentralization and economic development in
the past decade and a half on Pakistan.
• However, two areas have largely been unexplored in Pakistan
• Service delivery in urban areas
• Within service delivery, there has been an overwhelming focus on social
service delivery (education and health), as opposed to municipal service
delivery (roads, sanitation etc).
• In addition to the gap in the literature, the importance of
assessing municipal service delivery is two-fold:
• Zahid Hasnain (2010) identifies that local government priorities are
heavily tilted towards municipal services
• Deprivations in municipal service delivery contribute to poverty (Cheema
and Mohmand 2004).
• Compares service delivery under LGO 2001 to the centralized
governance following its lapse in 2010.
• We decided to focus on four municipal services:
• Solid Waste
• Exploratory study, not representative of Karachi.
• Interviewed 56 people in early 2014
• For our field research we chose Akhtar Colony
• Akhtar Colony is an ethnically diverse, lower-middle income
settlement adjacent to DHA Phase 1.
Service Delivery Improvements
• We found that overall service delivery was better under the
decentralized governance setup, as compared to the period
• However, for the four public goods that we were examining, the
improvement in service delivery was not uniform. Aslam and
Yilmaz (2011) reach a similar conclusion for rural Pakistan.
Water - I
• An overwhelming majority of our respondents cited the shortage
of water supply as the most pressing problem in the area
• Till 2008, the provision of water was satisfactory.
• After 2008, however, delivery of water reduced significantly.
• Respondents alleged that because the area did not vote for MQM,
the MQM was diverting water away from the area, towards DHA
• “KWSB chief engineer Najm-i-Alam Siddiqui said some
mischievous elements carried out valve operation on their own,
adding that tampering with the valve - through which water was
supplied to both Qayyumabad and Akhtar Colony - often caused a
water shortage in Akhtar Colony.” – Dawn report, 06th June 2009.
Water - II
• Residents protested in 2009 and 2010 – they were suppressed forcibly
by the state
• This goes to show that contestation goes beyond UC level.
• At the time of research, 89% respondents were procuring water
through unofficial means – water tankers and boring, primarily.
• Area cleaner under the local government set up.
• The UC administration had 4 sweepers designated for the area.
• Following 2010, garbage was predominantly collected by
individuals of Afghan origin employed by the residents. Three
quarters of our respondents resorted to this in the absence of
Roads and Sewerage - I
• Road conditions poor in general, and declined after 2010. Only
one instance of major road development.
• Sewerage pipelines were laid in the area in 2008 by the UC
administration, before which there were open sewers.
• In light of the older sewerage lines proving to be inadequate, in
the run up to the 2013 general elections, the PPP laid a new set
of sewerage lines parallel to the older lines.
• Partisan delivery: These lines were laid only in the areas where
PPP voters resided, i.e. Sectors C, D and E.
Roads and Sewerage - II
• Political contestation over these two services.
• The PPP laid new sewerage pipelines in the area in the run up to
the 2013 general elections.
• This, however, uprooted the main road that the MQM had re-
laid only a few months prior.
• Respondents reported that MQM workers had subsequently
tried to block these new pipelines by “dumping rocks, blankets
and pillows” into the sewers
Discussion - I
• We found that, in accordance with the literature, lower tiers of
government did have an efficiency advantage as compared to
higher tiers of government (Nguyen, 2008; Tanzi, 1995)
• The first avenue of complaint was the local UC office.
However, a significant number of complaints were not resolved
because the officials claimed to not have the resources.
• One reason for the lack of funds at the UC officials’ disposal
was because the UC government was formed by a different
party than the one in power at the city level (JI, MQM).
Discussion - II
• We argue that local governments should be empowered through
• However, it is crucial that before fiscal decentralization takes
place, local capacity building is undertaken to prevent
mismanagement and high corruption (Fjelstad, 2001; Mehmood
and Sadiq, 2010)
• We found service delivery to be along partisan lines following
2010. This can lead to greater polarization thereby increasing
the risk of political violence (Esteban and Schneider, 2008).
Thus, it is important to strengthen institutions of service
delivery, such as local governments.
Conclusion and Way Forward
• To conclude, despite delivery being uneven for the four services
under consideration, overall service delivery was better under a
decentralized set up.
• Further avenues of study
• Given that this study is not representative of Karachi as a whole, it will be
important to conduct a city-wide study that assesses service delivery
• Compare service delivery between ethnically heterogeneous and
homogenous areas. Some scholars argue that ethnically heterogeneous
areas are worse off than homogenous areas (Chandra, 2007)
• Elite capture is often cited in the literature as a reason for the failure of
decentralization, particularly in Pakistan’s rural areas. However, this needs
to be explored further for the urban context.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Husnain Habib
Malik for his immense contribution to the research, without
whom this would not have been possible, and to Dr. Hassan
Javid for his advice throughout the research process.