Burundi Fiscal Decentralization and Local Governance

Managing Trade-Offs to Promote Sustainable Reforms

Despite the remarkable progress achieved since the end of the conflict, Burundi still faces significant development challenges. Since 2005, the Government of Burundi has embarked on a potentially transformative process of decentralization, with the aim of strengthening social cohesion, improving local governance, and promoting access to basic infrastructure and service delivery. The weakness of the communal tax system, coupled with low mobilization of local revenue and nonexistent (current) or negligible (capital) transfers from the national budget threaten the financial viability of communes, which struggle to support even basic operating costs.
Addressing a specific government request, the present study aims to provide concrete policy recommendations to help the Government of Burundi improve the financial and institutional sustainability of the decentralization reform process, while enabling communes to address popular demands and deliver better services. The report also looks at the implications of these macro-level challenges at the sectoral level, through a case study of the recent experiences of decentralized land administration services, whose responsibilities were recently transferred to communes.
The report is based on results from interviews, fieldwork research, and qualitative focus group discussion, combined with existing administrative data and secondary sources on decentralization in Burundi. The present study is organized into four thematic chapters. Chapter one provides a snapshot of Burundi’s political and macroeconomic context, and reviews the evolution of the decentralization process to better understand how institutional, political, and bureaucratic dynamics have shaped the historical trajectory of decentralization and generated the outcomes observed today. Chapter two provides a systematic investigation of the status of fiscal decentralization in Burundi, and identifies key policy issues to be considered to ensure the medium-term sustainability of the reform process while at the same time addressing the short-term financial needs of communes. Chapter three provides an in-depth diagnostic of a key service delivery responsibility recently devolved to communes – the provision of land registration services and discusses the challenges and opportunities related to ongoing efforts to scale up access to these land services across 116 rural communes and Bujumbura. Chapter four shifts the focus to the nature of state citizen relations in an effort to better understand how citizen engagement in the decision-making process may be improved and local authorities held accountable for the provision of basic services.
World Bank. 2014. Republic of Burundi Fiscal Decentralization and Local Governance : Managing Trade-Offs to Promote Sustainable Reforms. Washington, DC.