European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

V. Working Group on Public Sector Finance and Accounting
WG Programme Coordinators:

Zeljko Sevic, University of Greenwich, UK
Lucie Sedmihradská, Prague University of Economics

NISPAcee Project Manager:

Elena Žáková, E-mail: zakova@nispa.org

Theme 2007:. The Burning Issue in Local Government Finance in a ‘Named’ Country

The Working Group has in the past five years dealt with a number of issues in Local Government finance and the results have been presented in three edited books published by NISPAcee whose publication was generously supported by LGI. The interests of the group spanned from decentralisation to local capacity building and budgeting practices in local governments in the target countries. As in the previous years, the Group has sought a new topic for the forthcoming year. Again, as in previous years, there were a number of proposals, which clearly demonstrated the gap in reform achievements in Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) and former SU (fSU) countries. Many issues that burden advanced transitional countries are simply of no immediate concern for the countries in Central Asia. While in the Visehrad counties legislators and regulators are in the process of fine tuning in the field of fiscal decentralisation, in central Asian republics the decentralisation is in its rudimentary stages.

Therefore, for this year the proposal is to have a relatively open topic where scholars and practitioners from the region can justify themselves as to what is the major burning issue, facing the local government finance ‘transition’ in their respective countries. It is expected that the topics will be fairly diverse (in advanced countries the issues linked with strategy will probably be addressed, whilst the basic issues of decentralisation will be addressed in Belarus, Moldova and Central Asian republics). The open topic of this type create additional burden itself, especially for the editor of the planned book, but also can prove to be a gold mine of new ideas and new avenues of research. It is expected that research of this kind would suggest a series of topics that can be explored in years to come.

The results of the work should be published in an edited book devoted to the studies presented. It is expected that around 15 studies will be published, after careful refereeing and editing process. Ideally, it would be possible to divide the book into parts, where the same issue will be addressed as burning in a respective group of countries.

As the membership of the group changes to about 30 per cent every year, it is good to have a broader overview of decentralisation developments and legislation and positive practices in local government finance. Therefore it is suggested that the following structure is used.

  1. Introduction (1-2 pages)

A general introduction to the country and recent political, economic and social developments is to be provided. Often authors do not provide major macroeconomic indicators in order to support their claims. This should be addressed in the future and main macroeconomic indicators are to be included. Basic information on the political system, election process and results can be placed here as well, linking the introductory section to the rest of the paper.

  1. Legal and Regulatory Framework (1-2, max. 3 pages)

In this section authors should present the positive legal framework regarding the local, sub-national government system in a respective country. To a large extent it will be based on the presentation of laws, but should not be just that. Authors should provide a critical assessment of the current system and briefly/anecdotally describe the major issues in territorial decentralisation since the fall of the Berlin Wall. A number of countries can report mixed results, therefore it would be useful to mention and analyse the main developments (stages in development) and possibly foresee how the local government system will be developing in the near future. Although this section has been devised to be informative, it is expected that authors will discuss in more detail the outreach of the current legislation, and what can be done to improve it.

  1. System of Public Financing (2-3 pages)

In this section the authors should give a general overview of public finance in the country and how the system is regulated, as opposed to how the system should be regulated. This section should be linked with the previous section, especially in relation to how the delegated or deconcentrated functions are financed and if there is underfunding of any of the functions. In this section, some problems should be flushed out, but they should not be explored in greater detail. It is important that the section is written in a non-partisan manner, that is in a way that appreciates differences in approach. This section should serve as a particular introduction to the next, main section

  1. Major Burning Issue (max 5 pages)

In this section authors are required to present the problems that create the major issues that are to be resolved. Authors should define the problem; put it into the context of the overall system and frequently cross-reference to their own work and conclusions made in two preceding sections. The issues should be well defined, and the choice empirically supported. The support for the claims should be either in a meaningful presentation and analysis of fiscal data, and/or through very extensive review of local literature (literature in locally spoken languages). In the past, authors often made a mistake not to refer to local literature, either focusing on predominantly Western literature or simply focused on narrative without appropriate analysis. Therefore, the authors are now requested to be very thorough in reviewing locally available literature and relate their findings to the works of other people. As the country studies are supposed to be empirical, the authors are expected to engage in primary data collection and/or analysis of secondary data (usually available from the national statistical offices). It is also expected that authors will engage in interviews and/distributing questionnaires to interested parties in order to ensure that the views of major stakeholder – key actors in the process are collated.

The burning issues to be put into a particular historical perspective, that is the author must clearly state when the issue enter the focus of the attention and why there have been delays or hesitation on behalf of the government in addressing these issues. The reader must be available to understand the timeframe of the issue, and to be fully aware of the efforts on behalf of the government in addressing the problem.

It is also important to clearly outline how does this detected problem affects the overall system of public finance, its efficiency and effectiveness. It is important that the potential reader can understand the problem and its extent within the overall public finance system in a respective country.

  1. Proposed Solution(s) (3-4 pages)

In this section authors should offer some plausible solutions to the problem noticed. Their recommendations should be both theoretically sound and practically feasible. The (proposals) should be linked to the theoretical framework built and also to the capacity of the government to tackle the problem in a proposed, presumably, innovative manner. Preferably, the authors should be able to report on the reaction of practitioners to their initial proposal and to engage in discussion with the concerns raised by the practitioners and/or local government finance specialist. Cross-referencing to the theoretical viewpoints and practical solutions presented in the preceding sections is necessary to strengthen further the authors’ position. Ideally, the authors would present their proposals, alongside the proposals put forward by other academics, practitioners, local and/or central government departments, etc. Through this discussion a prospective reader will get a very good understanding of the issues that the author considered problematic, but also other related issues that some other authors may consider equally problematic and crucial for understanding of the functioning of public finance in a respective country.

  1. Conclusion

The authors should bring the paper to close in a concluding section where briefly they will remind us of the issue and how it fits within the overall public finance system, as well as what are the theoretical determinants of the issue. Some reference to the historical developments should be welcome, but the main focus should be on briefly summarising the proposal, its feasibility and what is the relation of the current government structure to the proposal itself. In other words, whether the government is interested in resolving the problem and how urgent it is seen through their eyes. Finally, the author(s) should try to envisage how the situation with the issue will be developing in the future, that is whether the government will undertake the measures to address the problem effectively.

All the papers should be maximum 8,000 words long, including references and appendices. Authors should follow NISPAcee manuscript guidelines available on http://www.nispa.org/

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