Experiences, Benefits and Challenges of Decentralization
In October 2017 Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) invited a delegation from the Philippines for an international visiting program on “Experiences, Benefits and Challenges of Decentralization” in Hessia and Berlin. The delegation with members from the political sector and the civil society was headed by a chief executive of a major municipality in the Philippines.
The study tour aimed to equip the participants with adequate understanding of decentralization and the system of federalism in Germany. FNF in the Philippines commits to further contribute to the public debate in the country by providing a more comprehensive and intensive study of the system using the experience of German Federal Republic, especially anchored on liberal democratic ideals.
The program started with an introductory seminar “Federalism and the foundations of local self-administration: Historical Configurations and Political System of the Federal Republic of Germany“. The fundamental principles of German federal system, history, legal basis, distribution of competencies and financial equalization in German federal system were covered. A delegate pointed out that Germany’s journey to federalizing vis-à-vis Philippines’, “is not a sudden shift, not a radical movement from left to right, like what they are trying to do in the Philippines.”
The delegates also realized that Federalism is not a „one-size-fits-all solution“ to the country’s deeply rooted problems. Just like any thriving country, Germany has to deal with internal complexities and challenges, too.
One of the delegates also pondered on the role of effective, functioning educational system in building the foundation for a complex government system.“Federalism in Germany was a development of parts that wanted to come together. Paradoxically, Philippines, is a republic that wants to fragment - Is federalism being called to fragment?”
Aiming to illustrate a more concrete picture the group visited the Hessian state parliament. The group was welcomed and guided through the parliament by Patrick Walz, Director of FNF’s Regional Office in Hessen. Furthermore, Stefan Muller, Manager of FDP parliamentary group, reported on liberal approaches and roles in the state parliament.
Mayor Dr. Daniell Bastian invited the delegation to the local municipality of Seligenstadt to get an insight on federalism on a municipal level and the objectives, priorities, best practices and challenges that municipalities experience.
The fiscal equalization discourse was introduced by Kristina van Deuverden of Deutsches Institut fur Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW). The delegates could very much identify to this system because of the existing law in the Philippines in the Local Government Code called the „Internal Revenue Allotment“.
The observations and interactions at the Bundestag and Bundesrat provided valuable inputs to weaving together the knowledge from the earlier engagements in the study visit. Further meetings were scheduled with the experts Dr. Henrik Scheller of German Institute of Urban Studies, and Beatrice Kleinart, Advisor of the Legal Council of the Federal Council.
The meeting with MP Daniela Kluckert of FDP Berlin provided an enlightening discussion on Free Democratic Party’s success and struggles given the political realities in Germany.
The program concluded with a very engaging discussion with Franz Habbel, Press Speaker of German City and Community Association, as they talked about the initiatives, best practices and challenges of municipalities and the roles of citizens engagement in driving innovations and reforms to improve the services of municipalities to its constituencies.
This Study Visit has elicited new and deeper perspectives on federalism, not only for the Philippine delegates but more so for the German experts. The quality of discussions among this diverse pool of forward-thinking issue specialists here in Germany has been a clear proof of the importance of international dialogues in fostering renewed appreciation and critical-thinking in face of the most pressing national issues, such as decentralization or charter change
FNF is optimistic that this group will commit to cascading the information they learned from the study visit - hone and transform these knowledge to contribute further to a meaningful and inclusive national discourse. More specifically the action points include providing platforms for conversations among issue experts and wider public on policy strategy and comparison of contexts in Germany; and enabling coalition-building among like-minded groups and individuals that will support, echo, and ripple out the key advocacy points of a legitimate process to decentralization.