For centuries the representative of the Sultan in the atolls had the title ‘Vaaru Veriyaa.’ This Dhivehi term translates to something like ‘Head of Revenue,’ and gives a clue as to his job responsibility. Certainly the Vaaru Veriyaa’s post was not service oriented, though his administration did include service oriented officials –katheebs who led prayers and buried the dead, and naaibs who delivered justice. Written history gives very few clues as to any other services provided in the island by the central government. Historically therefore decentralization will be a paradigm shift in atoll governance. The terms decentralization and regionalization are not synonymous and they are also associated with other buzz words. How many of them do you know?
Regionalization: The process of dividing a political entity or country into smaller jurisdictions (administrative divisions or sub national units) and transferring power from the central government to the regions; the opposite of unitarisation.
Decentralization: The process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people or citizen.
Political decentralization: Giving citizens or their elected representatives more power in public decision-making.
Administrative decentralization: Redistributing authority, responsibility and financial resources for providing public services among different levels of governance.
Fiscal Decentralization: Dispersal of financial responsibility and ensuring adequate level of revenues
Economic and Market Decentralization: Privatization and deregulation to shift responsibility for functions from the public to the private sector.
Deconcentration: Shifting responsibilities from central government officials in the capital city to those working in regions. It is the weakest form of decentralization and is used most frequently in unitary states-- redistributes decision making authority and financial and management responsibilities among different levels of the national government.
Delegation: transferring responsibility for decision-making and administration of public functions from central governments to semi-autonomous organizations not wholly controlled by the central government, but ultimately accountable to it. This is a more extensive form of decentralization compared to deconcentration.
Devolution: transferring authority for decision-making, finance, and management to quasi-autonomous units of local government with corporate status. Devolution usually transfers responsibilities for services to local governments that elect their own elected functionaries and councils, raise their own revenues, and have independent authority to make investment decisions.
Vaaru Veriya: Originally an official responsible for revenue collection in an atoll, later took on the functions of atoll chief.
Khatheeb: Originally an island official responsible for religious services, later taking the role of island chief.
Naaib: An island level official responsible for justice, later replaced by Qazi and finally magistrate.
Atoll: Originally a ring shaped group of islands, later an administrative unit consisting of a 3 to 17 islands.
Rah: originally an island, later an administrative unit in an island, some islands having more than one unit functioning as a Rah –example Fuahmulah.