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14 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Local Governance and Decentralisation

Reviewed By Shishir Reza
Local Governance and Decentralisation

In 2015, a research based manuscript on ‘Local governance and decentralisation: Politics and economics’ was published by economist Abul Barkat from Pathak Shamabesh. It was co-authored Sayeedul H Khan, Shantanu Majumder, Muhammad Badiuzzaman, Nazme Sabina, Kawsher Ahmed and Mohammad Abdullah.

The researchers dedicated the book  to the common people of Bangladesh whose well-being necessitates strengthening local governance and decentralisation to include their real participation in the process of development.

The authors deal with local governance, local government system in Bangladesh, historical evolution and present structure of local government, development and performance nexus, development and governance nexus, governance and performance nexus, demographic, social, economic and class structure of local people, profile of local representatives, resource mobilisation among different portions of local government, political affiliation of local representatives, people’s participation, voice of local people, pre- and post-election violence, etc.

In general, the concept of ‘local governance’ explicates the tasks as done by local government institutions in both developing and developed countries, where collective public welfare is the leading concern. Local governance is also called the sub-national institution for its root based functions with regard to the lives of all people.

Local institutions constitute one of the most important avenues for poor and marginal people, women and minorities to participate in the development of their communities and influence the decision-making processes that are directly relevant to their lives. Important opportunities for poor people, women and minorities to participate in the development of their communities are to be found in local and regional institutions of governance. Democratically-elected new local leaders are struggling for change, acting as catalysts for development and facing hardcore challenges.

The writers explain that at the sub-national level, local institutions produce enormous differences in history, culture, environment, capacity, infrastructure and practices. Through this diversity, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has focused on four priority areas: local governance for improved service delivery, local governance for peace building, local governance for democratic representation and finally local governance for environmental sustainability.

The World Bank has indicated that local governance as governance units are divided into smaller units that are closer to the local communities. There are two main components of a local governance system: prudence allowed to the local government to perform fundamental functions that allow them to represent the preferences of the citizens in decision making process, and mechanisms that hold the local government accountable for appropriate use of this carefulness. Another important aspect of local governance is that decentralisation should take place at three different levels − political, administrative and fiscal. In general, local governance includes local government, mass media, non-government organisations, civil society and peer groups.

The writers say there are four types of local government in Bangladesh – union parishad, upazila, municipality or city corporation, and zila parishad, as well as other imperative elements for defense, border management, transport infrastructure, education, public health, social protection, economic development, judiciary and police, cultural and religious affairs and tax collection.

The researchers explain that local governance and decentralisation is becoming a critical area of sustainable development. The people of this country are yet to know the art of ‘delegation of power’. It is very important to mention that power turns into money through political process and money turns into power through economic process – together becoming the political-economy of mis-governance.

In our country, participation of community people, women, ethnic minorities, marginalised people, community-based organisations and civil society in planning, implementation and monitoring body is very important for society-people oriented development.

The authors recommend ensuring public participation as it is much needed to ensure regular meetings, maximum utilisation and mobilisation of resources, and financial support from the government for women’s participation in mainstream development.

This comprehensive treatise provides substantive empirical evidence on local government and decentralisation, which is needed for the poor, marginal people, women, children and the elderly in Bangladesh. This manuscript is important for people who think about institutionalisation of pro-poor, pro-equity and gender sensitive development. n

The writer is an associate member of

Bangladesh Economic Association.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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