This thesis aims to explain why and how after a comprehensive set of decentralising processes, Colombia experienced significant recentralising policies and reforms (1994-2014). These changes emerged not only against what was expected by leading works on decentralisation in Latin America, but in a way that the existing hypotheses on recentralisation cannot fully account for. This is a hypothesis-generating case study.

The growing literature on recentralisation is still very limited. With few exceptions, there are no big theoretical efforts. In general, the case studies assume temporal causal homogeneity. The analyses are excessively focused on the impact of only one type of factor (economic, political or administrative), instead of on the interactions between them. And they are excessively focused on the national governments, while neglecting the explanation of the role of legislators and subnational authorities.

FISCAL TRANSFERS 1Using process-tracing and combining evidence from documentary sources and elite interviews, the thesis suggests that Colombia’s recentralisation was an outcome of the interaction between economic inputs and institutional context. When an economic crisis takes place in a decentralised context, one can expect an increase of recentralisation. If an economic boom occurs in the same context, one should expect a decrease of recentralisation. If there is an economic crisis in a recentralised context, one can expect less recentralisation. If, instead, an economic boom occurs in the same context, one should expect even more recentralisation. The causal mechanisms are self-destroying/self-reinforcing dynamics.

The thesis provides a deep analysis of the Colombian case plus an updated review of the literature. It also aims to tackle the main definitional issues and brings new concepts for the analysis of the recentralising strategies used by national and intermediate levels of government. Noteworthy, it offers a hypothesis that identifies the relevance of changing institutional contexts, the interactions between different types of factors, and the role of legislators and subnational authorities. Still, this thesis does not aim to propose a general theory of recentralisation.

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I have presented my research findings at various conferences, including the American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting (2015 and 2016) and the Latin American Studies Association international congress (2014, 2015 and 2016).

  • Recentralisation and its causes: Colombia 1994-2014, 112th American Political Science Association –APSA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia (USA), 1-4 September 2016.
  • The Role of Economic Performance on the Emergence of Recentralisation: Colombia 1994-2014, XXXIV International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association -LASA, New York (USA), 27-30 May 2016.
  • The Causes of Recentralisation in Colombia (2007-2011), 111th American Political Science Association –APSA Annual Meeting, San Francisco (USA), 3-6 September 2015.
  • The New Colombian System of Royalties: Decentralisation or Recentralisation?, XXXIII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association -LASA, San Juan (Puerto Rico), 27-30 May 2015.
  • The Emergence of Recentralization in Colombia, XXXII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association -LASA, Chicago (USA), 21-24 May 2014.
Posts related to my thesis:
Water Supply and Sanitation in Colombia: From Decentralisation to Recentralisation, Global Water Forum, UNESCO – Australian National University, 16 March 2015


La recentralización y sus causas: Colombia, 1994-2014

El principal propósito de mi investigación doctoral en Oxford fue explicar el porqué y cómo surgieron procesos importantes de recentralización en Colombia en los últimos veinte años (después de la ola descentralizadora de los ochentas y principios de los noventas).

La importancia del caso colombiano radica en que buena parte de los trabajos sobre el proceso de descentralización en este país indicaban que éste iba a profundizarse (no a retroceder, como efectivamente ocurrió), y en que las actuales hipótesis sobre recentralización en el mundo no pueden explicarlo completamente. De otro lado, en la literatura sobre recentralización aún son escasos los esfuerzos teóricos.

En este contexto, con mi investigación no sólo quiero aportar un análisis detallado del caso colombiano (en particular, del surgimiento de las reformas del sistema general de participaciones del 2001 y 2007, así como de la reforma del régimen de regalías del 2011) y una revisión actualizada de la literatura sobre recentralización en el mundo, sino abordar los principales retos conceptuales de esta literatura (i.e. ¿qué es recentralización?, ¿cuáles son sus dimensiones?), así como aportar conceptos mas apropiados para el análisis de las estrategias usadas por los promotores de las reformas recentralizadoras para su aprobación con la menor oposición política posible. Y aún más importante, aportar una hipótesis que reconoce la importancia del cambio del contexto institucional generado por las primeras reformas recentralizadoras importantes, así como la interacción entre los factores económicos, políticos y administrativos.

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