The local governments receive conditional money from the federal and provincial governments. That may not address all local needs. So, the local rulers should focus on planning and economic autonomy.
Local governments (rural municipalities, municipalities, sub-metropolitan cities and metropolitan cities), which are also called local bodies or local units, are autonomous organs of the state that can play a major role in improving the living standards of citizens by utilizing the local resources for transportation, planning, housing, economic and community development, environment, recreation and amenities, as well as livelihoods.
The Constitution of Nepal-2072 BS has provided for three categories of governments. Local governments are one of them and are directly concerned with the daily routine of the citizens. The local bodies were there before in the past as well, when the country hadn’t adopted federalism. Federalism is not only the desire for decentralization, but also the desire for development and its attainment and guarantee. There are layered governments in other countries as well. The expenditure burden and corruption have increased in the operation of a three-tier government. But this is not a fault of federalism but the lack of its proper implementation.
The local bodies should be able to awaken the desire for development in the people. This is an appropriate practice for identifying and participating in development in one's field. The civil society should be vigilant to prevent corruption. Even though we have been running the local governments under the federal set up for five years, they have not been able to be as active as expected. The provincial governments, too, have this problem. Transparency International Nepal recently reported that the provincial governments were the most corrupt among the three tiers of governments. This is an early stage problem and will be resolved in the days to come. We need to think about how to effectively advance federalism.
The local governments practice unhealthy political competition. This is dividing the local level operators with the prejudice of the party. It has overshadowed efficiency and agenda. Pros and cons are being formed on the basis of political demands. This has created chaos. The experience of running the local governments in the past by the staff and now by the people's representatives has not changed much. Society is not as satisfied as expected with the service flow and planning of the local governments. There are different levels in society. The people's aspirations and needs also vary according to level. How can the local governments move forward with the wishes of all? This is the main question. Even today, basic needs like roads, drinking water, health, education, sanitation and electricity have not been met in many places. It has been in a state of disarray for the last 50 years.
The local governments receive conditional money from the federal and provincial governments. It may not address the local needs. The local rulers should focus on planning and economic autonomy. This requires improvement in internal revenue mobilization. If one’s income level is strong, the ability to reject the condition increases. In some places, it looks like there is an unhealthy competition to build view towers, entrance gates, and so on. If the support given by others is not your priority, you must first strengthen your financial resources before rejecting it or agreeing to your terms. To increase resources, trade, enterprise, employment should increase. The locals should be involved in some way of earning income. Each local unit has its own characteristics in terms of economic potential. As Biratnagar, Birgunj and Bhairahawa are industrial and commercial cities, industry and trade are the means of earning here. Cities like Pokhara, Kathmandu and Janakpur are of tourist importance. Attractive destinations should be created to attract tourists. The local governments should create and exploit areas of income generation according to their characteristics.
The local governments should keep the needs and consumption of the locals under their jurisdiction. As the road is called the jurisdiction of the federal government, the local governments have so far entered only the areas where the roads of the federal government do not reach. Road is transit. Transit is a great source of income in itself. Transit should be made quality. The power supply association is said to belong to the government. If the service is not provided properly, the local government should take responsibility. If there is a riot, thelocal government concerned should not make excuses that it is not its duty to control riots. Local governments should not show helplessness in the name of jurisdiction.
Even basic needs can vary from class to class in society. For example, there is a difference between the needs of the lower class and the lower middle class. In the past, just the supply of drinking water was enough. Quality water is needed now. There is a need for quality health care. In the name of education, not only the country's money but also its manpower has gone out. It is necessary to raise the living standard of the locals on the basis of services and infrastructure. The local governments must be able to provide timely services to the people today.
Public transport is not easy in any city. So it was time to buy a motorcycle and a car. What do the local governments think about this? Roads, sidewalks are not organized. Roads are not like roads, they are just tracks. No attention has been paid to the driver's efficiency. Why don't other countries recognize driver's licenses issued by Nepal? The local governments should work on this. At present, cash and in-kind items are distributed to the elderly and helpless. Such distribution does not give self-respect to the recipients. It makes them feel miserable. Why have the local governments not been able to convert the same assistance into a source of income for them?
The local governments should take a policy of raising the living standards of the locals. Mutual amity is needed for a better standard of living. Pollution-free housing should be managed by law. The houses in the cities are old-fashioned. There is no standard even in the new cities. Where the land is vacant, building construction work has been carried out. Whatever happened yesterday should not happen now. Now the tendency to leave the villages has increased. Let’s make efforts to transform the rural areas into cities. It needs to be clear what our policy is. With urbanization, there come poor settlements, some bad jobs and class divisions. The local governments should work strategically to prevent this from happening. There should also be a system of rights and duties between the local governments and the people. Citizens should have moral values. For this, first of all, the rulers themselves must show strong moral conduct.
The local governments should formulate clear policies on what kind of businesses to do or not to do in their areas. Prostitution, drugs, gambling, human trafficking, and alcohol abuse are serious sins. Such activities should be banned. For example, alcohol was banned in Bihar, India. In the United States, anyone can carry a gun. Today, as its misuse has increased so much that the voice to ban this is gaining strength. The local governments should formulate their own policies on what kind of trade the federal and provincial governments should allow in their areas. There should be a reciprocal balance between the private sector and the public sector in trade. The local governments should not neglect the essence of the private sector in this globalized world.
Quantitative as well as quantitative change is needed in the priorities of local governments. The services provided by the government should be based on updated technologies. Improvement is not possible due to old confusion. It is no longer the traditional pace of development, but the ability to strike a chord is needed to address the aspirations of the people. For this, honesty in the rulers is not enough; efficiency and academic ability and foresight are required.
Basically, if we discuss, communicate and formulate policies and programs accordingly, formulate long-term plans, manage the budget and move forward by ensuring planning, the expected results can be achieved. It is inevitable today to continue our efforts to acquire the ability to blow the trumpet of enthusiasm, inspiration, culture, respect, cordiality, unity and reconciliation through good deeds.
So let's just stop the politics of ambition and voting only to win the election. Let's try to embark on a long journey to make ourselves, the village and the society exemplary and inspiring through our good deeds. Before changing the world, let us change ourselves, let us change our ways, let us become capable by overcoming all our shortcomings.
Let's choose a leader who is capable of changing society, and who is experienced, honest, and always financially transparent and accepted by all. In order to address the aspirations of the common man in today's competitive and changing environment, it is imperative to follow the above mentioned steps to achieve success.
(A PhD scholar, the author can be contacted at Rajendrakoirala20@gmail.com. Views expressed in this article are personal.)