Decentralizing taxation and public services to local governments in Somalia: Findings from Puntland, Galmudug, and Benadir

Somalia adopted a federal arrangement in 2012 following years of devasting civil war and a series of weak transitional administrations. This arrangement is not yet complete. However, its adoption was in response to failed experiments in centralization during the military regime (1969-1991) where all powers were concentrated in the capital, Mogadishu. As a result, Somalis had to travel hundreds of kilometers to the capital to get services that they should have been able to receive from their immediate local authorities. Thus, the essence of the federal arrangement was to devolve power to local-level administrations in order to bring services closer to where most people live, and overcome the problematic legacies of centralized rule. Federalization of the country so far has mostly entailed the creation and strengthening of state-level institutions rather than local government. Federal Member States (FMSs) that were formed as a result of the federalization model have consolidated all powers in their respective state capitals. The first FMS-formed local government was established in Puntland in 2009. Other states such as Galmudug formed local governments as late as 2020.

This study takes stock of fiscal and service delivery decentralization in Puntland, Galmudug, and the Benadir Regional Administration. The study was undertaken in nine districts (three in each) of the three case study contexts to stimulate and inform serious discussions around the paramount importance of devolving fiscal and service delivery to local government in pursuit of Somalia’s federalized state-building efforts.

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