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Decentralization in Sri Lanka

Though Sri Lanka has a well established legal system of local governments at the provincial and sub-provincial level, years of conflict halted the decentralization process.  

The 13th amendment to the Constitution provided the constitutional provision to establish the Provincial Councils, which were given powers and functions.   Decentralization has an important role in Sri Lanka as part of the peace strategy in addressing the issues of ethnicity and local autonomy in the context of the civil war. Decentralization has often been used after civil conflicts to renegotiate powers between different ethnic, linguistic or religious groups, particularly when these are regionally based.

Future challenges remain:

·         Administrative decentralization is limited with control by the center over functions.

·         There are additional layers of administration and overlapping responsibilities.

·        The government's budget is affected by the country's turmoil.

·         Provincial Councils have not been effective in public service delivery.

Although Sri Lanka is recognized for its comparatively high levels of health and education among other low income countries, improving services - especially for poor and disadvantaged groups - is a pressing task.

The government has begun its effort in addressing the issue, and the World Bank has initiated preliminary work and dialogue with the government to help improving local service delivery through decentralization.

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