Decentralization is in vogue. However, the relationship between decentralization and local-level development dynamics remains unclear. Does decentralization lead to a 'reform dividend' of more rapid development in better-governed regions, with attendant national benefits? What is the impact on spatial inequality? In particular, do poorer regions lag further behind as equalizing fiscal policies at the national level weaken? We address these issues with reference to Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic nation, which implemented a 'big bang' decentralization program in 2001. Our main conclusion, perhaps counterintuitive, is that decentralization had a minimal impact on regional development dynamics, although its political impacts have been far-reaching.