Local governments in focus: Dialogue brings forth fruits of decentralisation
ISLAMABAD, June 28: A World Bank development dialogue on the decentralisation of local governments held here on Thursday came out with the conclusion that participation of citizens in running their affairs and government’s accountability for quality and timeliness of service delivery increases proportionately the frequency and level of interaction between them.
Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani chaired the dialogue seminar titled: “Decentralisation and Local Government – Reform Challenges, Lessons, and Policy Choices for Pakistan”. It was a part of the ongoing effort by the World Bank to facilitate global knowledge sharing on key economic issues and how these affect development work in Pakistan.
Mr Bijarani said the 18th Constitutional Amendment was the bedrock on which the edifice of decentralisation and local governance was being constructed in Pakistan. “The government believes in delivering the benefits of responsive governance in an accountable and transparent manner down to the grassroots level,” he said.
This, he added, could best be ensured through a robust and functioning three-tier system where the federal, provincial and local governments perform their mandated functions for the betterment of citizens.
Speaking on the occasion, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, Rachid Benmessaoud stated that “decentralisation is an important process for establishing a participatory model of governance”. Global experience showed that decentralisation could lead to significant improvement in overall governance and could enhance the quantity and quality of public services delivered to the people as it established a higher level of accountability to the stakeholders,” he said.
In his presentation, Prof Roy Bahl of Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University of US compared various decentralisation models under implementation globally and said that decentralisation moved government closer to the citizens and improved revenue mobilization.
George Mathew, Chairman Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi shared the Indian experience in local government and how it evolved over the decades. “Decentralisation is not delegation but devolution of functions, functionaries, finance and freedom of discussion”, is how he defined decentralisation.
Following the discussion on global context and various decentralisation models, South Asian experience and implications of recent 18th Constitutional Amendment in Pakistan, representatives from the provincial governments of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab briefed the seminar participants about the recent changes in their respective local government laws and systems.
District coordination officers from all four provinces shared their perspective on implementation of decentralisation and real-life experiences underlining the importance of constant monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the local governance system continues to evolve with the needs and aspirations of the citizens.
The panelists and participants exchanged views on global best practices and local experiences in tackling some of the issues of decentralised governance. A large number of development partners and representatives of donor community also attended the seminar.