The main objective of this dissertation is to understand the role of local government in economic development, with a focus on the cities and regions selected by the national government of Kazakhstan to be the drivers of national economic development by the Regional Development Program 2020. The dissertation presents three studies based on qualitative assessment of locally obtained evidence and locally produced data. The first essay examines administrative decentralization and studies how the Almaty city and Almaty region governments failed to use delegated urban planning for the management of urban development. The second essay challenges the fiscal system by exploring how the Almaty and Astana governments struggled to use national transfers provided for the implementation of national projects. The third essay focuses on political decentralization reforms and assesses the capabilities of elected representatives from Almaty, Astana, Shymkent and Aktobe city governments in managing urban transport based on public needs. Together, these three case studies provide a broader picture for understanding the productivity of the implemented administrative, fiscal and political reforms. It argues that the absence of a functioning decentralization strategy is leading to unexpected development outcomes and a lowering of public trust in local and national governments. The main contribution of the three studies is that they allow identification of key institutional weaknesses and obstacles faced by local governments in the management of local development in Kazakhstan.