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The State Capacities of Brazilian Municipalities in a Context of Policies’ Decentralization

Eduardo José Grin and Fernando Luiz Abrucio

This article addresses institutional and managerial changes of Brazilian municipalities in the context of the new constitutional order that strengthened their autonomy as federative entity and the decentralization of public policies. The municipal governments started to demand a greater level of administrative management when assuming their new responsibilities. This work shows how these requirements include the management of financial areas, human resource, IT and organizational topics. It is argued that the decentralization of policies and municipal autonomy set by the 1988 Federal Constitution were not followed by an increase in the State capacities required for the new attributions. The decentralization assumes the explanatory function of an independent variable and the modernization of State capacities is the dependent variable. A quantitative research is carried out based on descriptive statistics, in a longitudinal analysis, with the objective of capturing the effect of the independent variable in almost 30 years. The paper concludes that the capacities of Brazilian municipalities did not advance to the challenges arising from the decentralization of policies initiated after 1988. In the four central areas of management there are significant challenges to qualify the municipal management. This is more evident in municipalities with a population up to 50 thousand inhabitants in which several indicators show a worse situation compared to the largest. Considering decentralization as independent variable, its effect over the modernization of municipal administrations has been reduced, which in practice affects the autonomy of this federative entity defined in the Federal Constitution. This is a relevant consideration since the Brazilian federation chose to expand municipal attributions in the field of public policies over the last 30 years. Still, efforts to provide conditions to this purpose at the municipal level have not been very successful.

Key words: State Capacity; Decentralization; Municipalities; Brazil

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