Effective Decentralization for Sustainable Development in Bangladesh: An Analysis
Shahriar Islam Shovon: Around Tk 385b allocated for the effective development of the rural areas in Bangladesh through the Local Government Rural Development (LGRD) ministry (The Daily Financial Express, 20th June 2020). It is shown that at least 2,284 sacks of government relief rice have been stolen in the last nine days across the country. Monir Hossain, former chairman of Kamalpur Union Parishad of Sadar Upazila stole 10 sacks of VGF rice in Patuakhali. On that day, while selling 10 sacks of rice, the police arrested the chairman’s representative Bashir Sikder and Shohag and sent them to jail. The said-UP chairman Monir Hossain was also arrested (The Daily KalerKhanta, 25th September 2020).
The present government system in Bangladesh has established through various breakdowns. At present local government, bodies are bound by various laws and regulations and on the other hand the authorities of these institutions are reaching out to the central government without trying to collect taxes, rates, tolls or fees from the people for fear of losing votes in the next elections (The Daily Jugantar, 22nd July 2020).
At present, the government is struggling to find a solution to settle the national crisis. i.e. traffic congestion in the capital, unemployment across the country, rising commodity prices, social and moral decay, drug control, etc. But the solution to all these problems can be found in ‘administration decentralization’ process. In other words, the administrative infrastructure should not be only capital-centric but also divided and self-sufficient in local areas. We need development but it should be sustainable development. Human societies must live and fulfill their needs, desires without compromising the ability of future generations. All the problems can be mitigated by way of taking initiatives based on decentralization. Decentralization is the system of transfer of administrative, planning, and decision-making responsibilities from the central government to the lower echelons of administration or local authorities.In Bangladesh, we may have a system of decentralization but we need proper and actual decentralization in true sense. Bangladesh has a number of the legislations regarding this issue but sometimes these laws suffer from ambiguity.
According to Article-59 of The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in every administrative unit of the republic local government shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected regarding the law, and the act of parliament shall lay down the functions relating to the administration and the work of public officers, the maintenance of public order and the implementation of plans and economic development. Article 60 stipulates that for giving full effect of Article- 59 parliament shall, by law, confer powers on the local government bodies referred to in that article, including the power to impose taxes for local purposes. This is mention-worthy here that, approximately, 62.6% of the country’s population living in the rural areas (Statista, March 2020). We cannot develop ourselves without the participation of our large number of rural people or the participation of grassroots level people. In this respect, we required an appropriate local institution and also ensures the opportunity to people related policies and implementing all the decisions which are better for those people which is ultimately a way of forwarding sustainable development. For ensuring proper people’s participation in the decision-making process of LG, accountability Local Government (Union Parishad) Act, 2009 stipulated the concept of the ward meeting (Section-4).
For ensuring area development, solving problems, testing flexibility LG Act is in effect but the proper functions, powers are restricted. For this reason, local authorities are bound by the central government. Hence local authorities cannot take any free decision, cannot take any initiatives, cannot impose their power. Mainly they are dependent on the central government. According to the Local Government (Union Parishad) Act, 2009, for two decades, infrastructure development work including construction of roads and culverts has been being done through the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) (Section-47). MPs are playing an important role in determining the projects of these works. The Upazila Parishad has no involvement in these activities, although the construction, repair, and maintenance of roads in Upazila are under the responsibility and duties of the Upazila Parishad as per the Upazila Act. Through this, the Upazila Parishads are being deprived of their right to exercise their responsibilities and duties. According to section- 68 of the Local Government (Union Parishad) Act,2009 local government can increase the income from the people in any other way as per the provisions including tax, rate, toll, or fee collection but they are not interested in collecting taxes, rates, tolls from the people for fear of losing the support of people. Their main goal is to collect more grants from the central government. There are some factors which are considered as the functions of local government, such as, ensuring clean water, perfect sanitation, proper health care, roads, ensuring usable public transport, public markets, primary and secondary school, housing system, road lights facilities, and more other major economic activities also. Most importantly, some of the representatives cannot take part in the policy making role.
To ensure the functions of local government some indicators should be considered. These include the availability of budgets, financial reports of local government, media existence, proper auditing reporters who are always for auditing following required schedules, availability of complaint boxes, scheduling the public meeting, response to public complaints, monitoring the level corruption, ensuring health rights for workers, etc. Effectively, it allows the authority to take immediate decisions for mitigating problems. The democratic local government certainly can ensure sustainable development in society and can develop the quality of life. So, it can easily ensure sustainable development in all aspects. Local government through the Decentralization process can also play a vital role to connect the central government with local people. So, we can expect from our government that, the government shall take initiatives to fulfill the constitutional mandate to establish a local government in all administrative stages.
Shahriar Islam Shovon: Student; Department of Law & Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific