A Fiscal Need Approach to Sub-National Fiscal Equalization. Application to the Case of Chile

  • Leonardo E. Letelier S. Instituto de Asuntos Públicos, Universidad de Chile
  • Francisco Mesa Universidad de Los Lagos, sede Osorno, Avenida Eduardo Meyer 3280
Keywords: fiscal decentralization, local public services, intergovernmental equalization grants, municipal needs, municipal fiscal capacity, Chile


This research is intended to measure the gap between the existing level of grants for municipalities for school level education, primary health services and other services, regarding a theoretically advisable per beneficiary expenditure level based on the so-called ‘Fiscal Need Approach to Equalization’ as developed by Shah (1996, 2007). This general aim is being tackled while acknowledging that decentralization is a multi- dimensional concept, of which the fiscal one is imbedded in a wider political and economic context. Since the early eighties, Chilean municipalities have administered both school level public education as well as primary health centers, on account of which the central government grants municipalities a certain amount per beneficiary. Our main findings suggest that Chile is not a fiscally ‘centralized’ country as far as the distribution of general government spending in the areas being examined is concerned. Nevertheless, this result does not preclude acknowledging that Chile is still centralized from an economic view point. In this regard, future research should explore ways of promoting convergence across regions nationwide.

Author Biography

Leonardo E. Letelier S., Instituto de Asuntos Públicos, Universidad de Chile
Region Metropolitana


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