Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Local Government in Bangladesh note 5
Local Government in Bangladesh
Pranab Kumar Panday
Bangladesh has repeatedly experimented with decentralisation in the post-colonial and post-independence period. Every successive regime between 1957 and 2001 attempted to reform the local government structure. The induction of local government, however, failed to ensure access and participation to the poor. The absence of tangible rewards for participating in local affairs often resulted in apathy and frustration to the villagers. The main concern of this essay is to evaluate the process of decentralisation that took place under different regime in Bangladesh and analyse to what extent decentralisation has been ensured.
Local government is part of overall governance. Local government institutions, being nearer to people, can involve them in various ways: (a) planning and implementation of projects
(b) supervision of educational institutions, hospitals and other government financed units (c) mobilisation of support for new initiatives like campaign against dowry, child labour etc. (d) enforcement of laws regarding gender discrimination, violence against women, environment protection (e) mobilisation of resources in the form of taxes, fees, tolls etc. Popular participation also assumes importance because of its potential for holding the local government institution accountable to the community. On the other hand, local government institutions can enforce accountability of the central/national government authorities. The more aware, vigilant and active the community becomes through its participation in local government bodies, the greater is the pressure on both local government institutions and the government authorities to become transparent and responsive (Z. R. Khan: 1999). The potential of local government institutions can be realised more effectively where there is decentralisation and devolution of power. Accountability, transparency, participation, empowerment, equity and all other attributes of good governance can become a part of the daily work of both the government and local bodies when decentralisation and devolution take place. Without decentralisation and devolution, local government bodies remain paper organisations without any effective role. It is no exaggeration to say that it is in a decentralised local government system that most of the attributes of good governance have a chance to survive and prosper. Strengthening of local government institutions can, therefore, be seen as a positive trend towards good governance. All successive governments in Bangladesh felt the need to have viable local government for ensuring effective governance. As a result, we have seen 'decentralisation' as an important policy agenda of all governments. The repetitive process of local government reform has been handed down to Bangladesh from Pakistan as a post-colonial extension. However, the necessity to reform the existing structure of local government by various successive governments in Bangladesh indicates their failure to create effective institutions for enhancing local democracy and delivering development programmes. In order to analyse the process of decentralisation in Bangladesh and its justifiability, the following questions need to be addressed: 1) To what extent have the governments of Bangladesh been successful in ensuring decentralised local government? 2) What are the major issues associated with the decentralisation of local government in Bangladesh?
In some countries, the local extensions of the central government, and in others, traditional local power structures utilised for supporting field administration, have been misconstrued as being equivalent to local government. At times local government has been mistakenly considered an insignificant segment of the government. However, in industrialised countries, the number of civil...
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