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Since this was written, a new study has been published in the form of a Working Paper (DAFFLON and PERRITAZ, 2000) focusing on the mandatory
functions at local level in the canton of Fribourg and the correlation between the size of the communes and the independent proportion of their budget
/account.. The results are that on average 20 % of local current revenue sources are assigned to mandatory functions fixed by the canton, 15 % is
due to the inter-communal provision of public services (mainly for the reason that individual communes are too small for such functions) and 9 %
corresponds to debt servicing. Thus, 56 % of current revenues remain for the own choice of the local authorities (which does not mean that the total is
free for new choices: it must also finance the financial consequences of past decisions and the running management costs). Based on year 1997
only, an inverse correlation between size and independent expenditures exists (the smaller the commune, the lower is the independent part of its
current expenditures), but the results are not significant. This is neither an invalidation nor a confirmation of point (2) in the text. There are three
questions to be solved. From the conceptual side, there is no agreement about the definition (and thus the measurement) of local public expenditures
imposed by the canton or the federal government (mandatory function: "dépenses liées"). From the technical side, the sample is given by the
communes in one canton only, for one year 1997 because no such statistical data are available: we had to get all the figures from the communal
accounts. For generalisation, the analysis should be extended first to several years in the same canton, and second, if possible, to several cantons. Commission on Fiscal Imbalance government levels, less than 1/4 correspond to ad hoc inter-communal institutions co-ordinating particular functions,
which leaves more than 1/2 for current expenditures resulting from the own preferences of local residents.
Now then, what can be said about the tension between subsidiarity and centralisation ? There is no simple answer, but a
very pragmatic approach and case by case solutions. However, two points deserve attention. First, a higher level of
government cannot interfere so easily so as to impose its own idea of "efficiency" upon a lower level of government. The
democratic procedure must be respected. The amalgamation of two or several communes is a good example: this has
proved almost impossible on a compulsory basis with the argument that communes are often too small to perform
correctly the functions assigned to them. And the voluntary amalgamation of communes responds to another logic than
strict fiscal consideration (DAFFLON, 1998). Second, if a function needs more centralisation, it will not be enacted by
agencies of the higher-level government, but by lower-level acting as agencies. Thus, the communes will first organise in
special "inter-communal" jurisdictions rather than giving up a function to the canton. And many federal standards are
implemented by the cantons: law and justice are but two examples. In general, one finds no duplication of service
precincts, federal a...
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