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International development efforts have increasingly focussed on governance and institutional reform as a means to address poverty and accountability, in particular decentralisation reform wherein public officials are held accountable for their decisions and responses to the voices and demands of the people through local elections, and key public services are provided locally.
This book argues that decentralisation reform in Cambodia has failed to transform the existing power relations necessary to produce democracy, accountability and improved service delivery. Instead, the donor’s supported reform tend to focus on developing institutions, legal frameworks and capacity building, and have been increasingly resisted or co-opted by local elites to maintain their power. Because of this, governance reforms have left government divided between comparatively transparent donor-funded programme and a public sector mainstream system where everyday accountabilities are still dominated by strong, centralised lines within political parties and central ministries, based on principles of personal loyalty, hierarchy and political stability.
This book is the first substantive publication on Cambodia’s decentralisation reform with a focus on the new district system of Cambodia’s sub-national governance. The author’s unique position as a Cambodian opens up new information related to patronage, party and informal networks at national and sub-national levels. Illustrated extensively with quotes and examples from local councillors and officials who are at the center of this reform programme, it captures the local nuance and understanding of the complexity and implication of decentralisation programme and takes the reader inside the real meanings of governance and accountability in Cambodia. It will be of interest to researchers in the fields of decentralisation, public sector reform, the politics of development, local governance, Political Economy and Southeast Asian studies.