Long and difficult ride

  • Upcoming local level elections are only the beginning of the long march to federalism

Apr 6, 2017-

Although the nation’s current focus is squarely on the upcoming local level elections, they will only mark the beginning of a larger political process. Elections to the local, provincial and federal levels, which will have to be held by January 2018, will be a watershed event, for they will lead to the implementation of the new state structure as outlined in the constitution.

It is estimated that the government will have to pass around 150 new laws and amend over 300 existing ones. Furthermore, efforts will have to be made in reforming the bureaucracy, judiciary and state security forces to make them accord with the three-tier federal structure. The new constitution places a premium on decentralising authority and ensuring inclusion. Hence, the state will have to expend much energy on training state representatives at local and provincial levels. It will also have to make efforts in devising methods for proportional representation in local and provincial bodies. In sum, the state will have to make Herculean efforts to implement the new federal structure.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of preparation. This has bred fears that constitution implementation would entail widespread administrative chaos. For example, problems have already cropped up in budget formulation. The constitution states that local bodies have the authority to frame their estimates of income expenditure and execute different tasks without consulting the central government. For this to happen though, the government has to formulate three sets of laws: the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission Act, the Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfer Act and the Intergovernmental Relations Act. Civil servants at the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers are under immense stress trying to formulate these laws. Donors have also expressed concerns about the management of education under the new federal setup, since the constitution says that local bodies will have the power to run their own education systems.

Government officials are aware of the challenges to properly train local and provincial authorities to carry out all their functions. Officials at the Ministry of Finance have said they will facilitate the process to ensure that elected officials will gain adequate resources and expertise. This is positive, but insufficient. The scale of the tasks ahead is so vast that it will require solid political leadership.

The government and the political parties need to undertake three immediate measures to make the transition to federalism as smooth as possible. First, they need to create dedicated cells within all ministries to help coordinate the implementation of federalism. Second, they need to create a pool of experts within their parties to provide guidance to the top leadership. Third, they need to solicit support from international experts on specific themes of creating provincial and local structures.

Published: 06-04-2017 07:57

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