Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) Administrator Murtaza Wahab, who also serves as the spokesperson for the Sindh government and adviser to the chief minister on law, addressed on Thursday a talk under the Competitive and Livable City of Karachi (CLICK) project.
The talk, which was held at the old Karachi Metropolitan Corporation building, was titled ‘How The City of Karachi Works’. Public-private partnership must be reactivated to improve the city, Wahab said. “It's time to utilise powers and move on. Everyone has their own point of view but we have to own our city. I am working for the betterment of Karachi and will continue to do so,” he added. The open forum was attended by a large number of students from different colleges and universities of Karachi, prominent citizens and representatives of civil society. The KMC administrator said that he always said that he could not solve the problems of 40 years in four months.
He added that he would not go for a political blame game. “Citizens should cooperate with the KMC. Karachi has been badly branded in the past even though the city is not so bad,” he remarked.
Wahab claimed that when the time came for new delimitations in 2021, the Local Government Act was reformed and for this purpose all political parties and stakeholders were consulted. He maintained that in the new system, the local bodies had been given full powers to solve the problems of the citizens and improve their standard of living.
"Once the funds are collected, the people will be able to ask the elected representatives where the money was spent. In the past, there was frequent decry of lack of power which became a common impression. We as citizens have to decide whether we want to run the institutions on a sustainable basis or not," he said.
He was of the view that water scarcity was a major problem in the country and local, provincial and federal governments had to work together to solve it. He said the provincial government was assisting the KMC for setting up a desalination plant in Karachi.
Due to the commercialisation of 40 roads in Karachi, high-rise buildings were constructed on narrow spaces and ultimately the citizens suffered as the existing infrastructure was severely
affected, Wahab said.
He stated that if the situation was to be rectified, the municipal tax system would have to be run like in other major cities of the world. “The KMC used to collect only Rs210 million annually and out of this, Rs450 million was given to the tax collecting company. We decided to levy a local body tax of Rs200 per household on electricity bills like the PTV licence but it was severely criticised and it was said that the burden was being placed on the citizens, although this was not the case,” he said.
He added that in the new system, it has been decided to collect property tax through local bodies. Wahab explained that in a city like Mumbai, Rs53 billion was collected in the head of property tax but in Karachi only Rs1.6 billion was collected.
He also stated that education and health were not municipal but provincial functions and so it was decided that the provincial government would take care of these matters. The KMC administrator said that the performance of the provincial government was better than that of the KMC when compared to medical institutions.
He reiterated that the collection of municipal and property taxes was of paramount importance. "I, like others, could have borrowed from the provincial government, but that is not the solution. All information related to KMC's assets is posted on the website in a transparent manner," he said.
KMC Metropolitan Commissioner Syed Afzal Zaidi also addressed the open forum and in response to questions of the participants, said the city government was working at all levels to solve the problems of the citizens. "The purpose of this open forum is to provide information to the citizens regarding the local government and administrative issues in Karachi and to create awareness so that we can all work together for the betterment of the city," Zaidi said.