What measures are actively being taken to support the decentralisation of the state?
ARAMIS: It must first be recalled that decentralisation derives its legal status from the constitution, which outlines as a principle the free administration of territorial collectivities, endowed with legal personality, as well as administrative and financial autonomies. These constitutional principles were further enshrined and relayed twice by the legislature: first through the 2002 law on decentralisation and the status of regions; then by the 2005 law on the special status of Djibouti City. Taken together, these laws have configured the state as a republic of five regions and one specially designated city. The decentralised entities enjoy full legal capacity, have deliberative organs resulting from direct universal suffrage and executives elected by these bodies.
In addition to enjoying constitutional and legislative enshrinement, these principles have been vigorously reflected in various national guidance documents. For instance The National Initiative for Social Development considers decentralisation and good governance strategic priorities in the fight against poverty. Following that finding, in 2016, the state delegated to a newly formed ministry a charge to oversee the diffusion of government authority.
In order to review that process, the ministry recently developed a roadmap that identifies the gaps in existing legal and institutional frameworks, as well as the capacity shortcomings of key actors. That roadmap is accompanied by a three-year Action Plan (2017-19), which aims simultaneously to harmonise discordant laws, reinforce good local governance and further develop local authorities’ financial autonomy. Further, in March 2007, in accordance with its priority to transfer to local communities the assets they need to become real change agents, the government adopted a decree on the distribution of skills between the State and the Territorial Communities.
What challenges does the nation face in attempting to change its current mode of governance?
ARAMIS: Decentralisation is key to the reform process, but the success of that undertaking depends in large measure on meeting certain crucial conditions.
The first challenge is funding: the local authorities have virtually no resources of their own, which renders them unable to cope with the many of the basic tasks that they need to carry out. The amounts allocated to them constitute only 0.0017% of the total current receipts of the 2017 budget and 0.0029% of the total tax revenue. Realising local autonomy requires an appropriate measure of financial independence, which relies on matching the localities’ resources to the responsibilities that they assume.
The second major obstacle to effective decentralisation is the prevailing legal order. Creating a smoothly functioning funding system requires the establishment of laws that delineate guidelines for the collection of different revenues and define the terms of their mobilisation and use. Only then will local players be able to freely deploy resources in strict compliance with relevant regulation.
The clear and precise delimitation of responsibilities both within and between different administrative levels seems essential to avoiding conflicts of jurisdiction and instances of blockage unfavourable to the government’s proper functioning. As a result, it is also necessary to legally define the terms and conditions by which de-concentrated technical services are provided to sub-national authorities, such that they may benefit from the support of state agents.
Finally, the third problem to solve pertains to the exercise of transferred competences. Although it is true that the regions themselves are fully responsible for developing those skills that they recognise as advantageous or satisfying areas of need, they are still far from having the necessary financial, material and human resources for achieving this purpose.
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