This dissertation examines local governments’ efforts to promote economic development in Latin America. The research uses a mixed method to explore how cities make decisions to innovate, develop, and financeeconomic development programs. First, this study provides a comparative analysis of decentralization policies in Argentina and Mexico as a means to gain a better understanding of the degree of autonomy exercised by local governments. Then, it analyzes three local governments each within the province of Santa Fe, Argentina and theState of Guanajuato, Mexico. The principal hypothesis of this dissertation is that if local governments collect more own-source tax revenue, they are more likely to promote economic development and thus, in turn, promote growth for their region.
By examining six cities, three of which are in Santa Fe—Rosario, Santa Fe (capital) and Rafaela—and three in Guanajuato—Leon, Guanajuato (capital) and San Miguel de Allende, this dissertation provides a better understanding of public finances and tax collection efforts of local governments in Latin America. Specific attention is paid to each city’s budget authority to raise new revenue and efforts to promote economic development. The research also includes a large statistical dataset of Mexico’s 2,454 municipalities and a regression analysis that evaluates local tax efforts on economic growth, controlling for population, territorial size, and the professional development. In order togeneralize these results, the research tests these discoveries by using statistical data gathered from a survey administered to Latin American municipal officials.
The dissertation demonstrates that cities, which experience greater fiscal autonomy measured by the collection of more own-source revenue, are better able to stimulate effective economic development programs, and ultimately, create jobs within their communities. The results are bolstered by a large number of interviews, which were conducted with over 100 finance specialists, municipal presidents, and local authorities. The dissertation also includes an in-depth literature review on fiscal federalism, decentralization, debt financing and local development. It concludes with a discussion of the findings of the study and applications for the practice of public administration.