Argentina has been a federal country since 1824. States and municipalities have been constitutionally recognized as integral parts of the federal since 1853. Even though they receive a relatively high share of their budget from federal transfers, provinces (55% of budget comes from federal transfers) and municipalities (between 50% and 70% of revenues come from the federal government) have extensive spending and administrative autonomy. Provinces in Argentina play an leading role in the provision of frontline public services, including education, health, and social protection. While municipalities play a relatively small role in these concurrent functions, they playing a more important role in areas such as housing, community amenities, and environmental protection.
Subnational governance structure
The federal constitution provides the basis for Argentina’s intergovernmental structure at the province and local levels. Argentina is divided in 23 provinces plus the capital city of Buenos Aires and 2,327 municipalities. All provinces and municipalities have the same functions and responsibilities irrespective of their level of development. While provinces functions are extensive and cover all areas of government, municipalities functions are centered around general local government services such as waste collection. Provinces have large SOE sectors, including the ownership of electric and water utilities.
Nature of subnational governance institutions
Both provinces and municipalities are devolved subnational government institutions with extensive powers and functions, though provinces are disproportionately more relevant in terms of public service provision. Province governments replicate the federal structure of an executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. Governors and state legislators are elected directly every 4 and 2 years, respectively. Municipalities have a local council presided over by a mayor. Although municipalities are operate as autonomous government institutions and authoritatively pass their own budgets, their functional responsibilities are largely limited to exclusive local government functions, while municipal taxes and charges are determined at the provincial level.
Assignment of functions and responsibilities in Argentina is complicated, particularly between the federal and the provincial level. Functions like education and health are concurrent, with little clarity as to where the responsibilities for each level of government begins and ends. In practice, local governments play a limited role in concurrent functions, such as public education, public health and social protection. Some taxes are also concurrent, with effective double consumption taxes being common. The latest round of reforms tried to clarify the responsibilities of provinces, while trying to simplify their complicated tax structure and overlapping with the federal government. Water and electricity are provincial functions, with the exception of the city of Buenos Aires, where the federal government provides these services.
Outlook of Fiscal Relations between Levels of Government in Latin America and the Caribbean (Panorama de las relaciones fiscales entre niveles de gobierno en países de América Latina y el Caribe), IADB/CEPAL
Argentina Country Profile (World Observatory on Subnational Governance and Investment, OECD/UCLG)
Local government country profile: Argentina (UN Women)
Last updated: December 1, 2023