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National

August 12, 2015

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Third tier of government

In terms of devolution of authority and resource distribution to the local level, the new financial year would be of singular significance. During the year, local bodies would be in place and hopefully functioning for the benefit of the people at the grassroots level. After years of apathy, there is a ray of hope that the much neglected civic amenities would start getting the attention they have been deserving for long.
The responsibility of running these local bodies efficiently as an institution would fall on the shoulders of the provincial governments as the subject falls in the their domain. But such a supposition needs to be tempered with caution. On the part of the provincial administration, there might be temptation to exercise maximum possible control over these local institutions. But the very spirit of the local government obviously means powers to the local bodies and hence greater say of the people in their affairs.
There is also the provision for provincial financial commission awards for devolution of resources. There is no reason to presume that enough funds would not be made available to the local bodies. However, the social sector needs are so enormous that the provincial governments might have to reorder their expenditure priorities. Global research in this regard suggests that with the rapid pace of urbanization, not only the need for local bodies has assumed much greater importance and urgency but it is also equally important that they are provided sufficient funds to cope with the demand on social services.
It is quite well known that the provinces do not usually levy much tax but their main source of revenue is the share in the divisible pool. The local bodies might get limited powers to raise resources but their financial lifeline would come through their respective provinces. It is, therefore, logical to expect that the provinces would make a little extra effort in refurbishing their resource base. However, these institutions at

the local level ought to be allowed maximum space to function smoothly.
A great responsibility also rests with the people who have to elect their representatives for the local bodies which also has come to be known as the third tier of the government. As reports suggest much enthusiasm has been seen for the democratic institutions at the local level. It has also been observed that younger people, especially in urban centers, have been taking keen interest in making it to these bodies through the electoral process.
Usually known as the nursery for democratic institutions, the local bodies have by their nature and structure to play an extremely important role. These local bodies could throw up leadership for elections at the provincial and the parliamentary level. The most crucial would be the use of funds at their disposal. Their use with utmost transparency will instill confidence among the people of the area. Above all, the work done at the local level should speak for itself.
It is also of much importance that a healthy working relationship gets developed between the local bodies, the concerned administrative machinery and the ministry at the provincial level. The revival of these institutions at the local level can bring about much change in the upkeep of their respective areas and the people.
Elders recall that only a few decades ago the man with a ladder on the shoulder, a can of kerosene oil in hand and going from one lamp post to the other lighting it up as the night approached. And then there was the tradition of cleaning the street drainage quite frequently. And there were schools run by these elected bodies. So were the libraries. The list can be expanded. The point to emphasise is that with local problems in the hands of their elected representatives, it is fair to expect improvement in the delivery of social sector services.
Let us hope that once the local bodies are in place, they do not suffer the kind of disruption that they had seen in the past.

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