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한국개발연구. Vol. 13, No. 2, August 1991, pp. 41-67

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Local Autonomy, National Economy and Local Public Finance (Written in Korean)


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Local autonomy of Korea's lower-level local council has been reinstated following elections last March for the first time in thirty years. Last June, we had elections for the upper-level local council. Mayors, governors, and administrative chiefs of cities, provinces and other local government bodies are slated for elections in the first half of next year. The impacts of local autonomy are taking effect in not only the political sphere, but also the administrative and economic spheres. In fact, it seems that some modification of all economic policy making and administration is inevitable. Since the initiation of local autonomy, in order to make the economy work more efficiently, it has become quite important to examine the impact of local autonomy on the national economy. The areas of local autonomy include independent legislative power, administrative power, organizational power, and most important of all, the independent public financial power of the local governments. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of local autonomy on the national economy and ways of enhancing the role of local public finance to facilitate settlement and development of the local autonomy system. Local autonomy will contribute to the continuous growth of our economy, allow balanced development, and generate greater efficiency. However, local autonomy can also incur economic costs causing at times short-term price instability, inefficient resource allocation, through tax competition and tax exporting, and insolvency of local government due to abusive fiscal operation. To reduce these side effects, different alternatives must be considered. Local autonomy systems generally provide more efficient resource allocation than centralization. But in the model used in Chapter 3 of this paper, the relative efficiencies of both local autonomy and centralization are determined by comparing the elasticity of substitution between national public goods and local public goods. If the elasticity of substitution is bigger than one, centralization provides a more efficient resource allocation. The development of local autonomy could be attained through democratization of the local public finance system including the following three propositions. 1) The independence of public financial power of local governments should be established over central government. Furthermore, a democratically operated scheme of intergovernmental fiscal coordination is especially necessary. 2) In the operation of local finance, direct democracy is needed to induce the voluntary participation of local residents. The residents can take part in planning both the local budget and the development of the community. To attain this goal, all the results of local finance operations should be made public. 3) Among economic ill-effects of the local autonomy system, the most serious one is the possibility of insolvency of local governments. Therefore, measures to limit abusive spending by the local governments should be introduced, such as the fiscal restraints system adopted in the United States.

JEL Code

P34, P35

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