Tug of war

  • There should be smooth resolution of problems that will arise as local units come into operation

Jul 17, 2017-Now that local elections have been held in all but one province, preparations for the operationalisation of local level units have begun in earnest. And it is becoming clear that there is a wide range of tasks that need to be determined. 

The constitution only provides a broad outline regarding how local units will work. The precise modalities of the responsibilities of local units, how they will interact with the population as well as the central and provincial governments remain to be worked out. Part of the challenge is the promulgation of various laws that will provide clear guidelines to local units. The government has been busy in formulating such laws, but it will still take time before all necessary laws are in place. The danger here is that the government will unilaterally pass legislation that will privilege the centre over the provinces. 

This should be avoided. Mechanisms should be found to consult broadly on the laws, including with the newly elected representatives themselves. But passing legislation is only one part of the challenge. In the days ahead, numerous other problems will arise as locally elected representatives seek to exercise the powers accorded to them. A case in point is what recently happened in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). It was unable to finalise its budget for this year, as its 32 wards apparently submitted budgets that were well out of proportion. One ward submitted a budget of Rs500 million. There is no wrongdoing here. The elected representatives at the ward level were simply exercising their right to formulate their own budgets. It was natural that they put forward maximal budgets.

Then there have been incidents that have arisen as a result of more malign intentions. There was a case of a newly elected village council head who sought to prevent a group of citizens from organising a meeting to pursue some of their common interests. According to the village chief, such meetings can only be held with his permission. This was an example of dictatorial behaviour and a violation of the freedom of association.

The government should set up a committee (or more) to mediate when such disputes arise. This would help mitigate the negative impacts that might arise due to unforeseen events. Such committees could help resolve disputes over budgets, or help local units prepare reasonable budgets. The committees could also make clear that local representatives do not possess the authority to restrict the right to assembly. The government has recently formulated a code of conduct for newly elected representatives and is busy organising training programmes for them. These are positive steps. But more needs to be done for a smooth resolution of problems that will inevitably arise as local units come into operation.

Published: 17-07-2017 07:45

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