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This book provides an analysis of the urban government system in Bangladesh, focusing on its upper tier, the City Corporation (CC), and the institutional and legal frameworks within which it operates. Along with a discussion of the scale and magnitude of urbanization, the book presents a comprehensive analysis of the reform agendas of CCs including their functional assignments, local political leadership, local control over administration and service delivery, local fiscal autonomy and local financial management, and local participation and accountability mechanisms. Very few efforts have been taken to analyze the comprehensive reform agenda required to make the CCs effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities in the context of Bangladesh. This book therefore not only fills this gap in the literature, but also provides recommendations on each reform agenda.



1. Introduction

Urban government institutions in Bangladesh have been entrusted with different responsibilities relating to delivering better urban services to the citizens. But, these bodies usually find them in a difficult situation as they suffer from different drawbacks, including scarcity of resources, dependence on the central government, lack of autonomy, corruption, central government’s control, and so on. Thus, the government of Bangladesh has adopted the policy of strengthening local and urban government bodies. In this endeavor of the government, various donor agencies, including UNDP, SDC, USAID, DANIDA, and so on, are assisting them to carry out different reform initiatives as well as building the capacity of different actors involved in these institutions. In this chapter, problem of the issue has been discussed along with the importance of carrying out reform agendas and indicators through which governance situation of the CCs have been measured.
Pranab Kumar Panday

2. A Brief History of Urban Governance in Bangladesh

Constitutional basis, the changing pattern of municipalization, and the existing structure of urban-local government bodies in Bangladesh have been discussed in this chapter. It has been learnt that the municipalities of Bangladesh had its origin in British rule and remained almost the same after that, with only a few changes incorporated into its structure. Different successive governments since the British rule have used “changes in the structural design” as a strategy to impose control on the municipalities. Even after independence, municipalities were administered by government-appointed mayors until 1994 when for the first time in the history of Bangladesh elections were held for the post of mayors and councilors of CCs. Since then, there has been a regular election in different urban government bodies.
Pranab Kumar Panday

3. Scale and Magnitude of Urbanization in Bangladesh

This chapter concludes that although the growth of urbanization in Bangladesh prior to the twentieth century was very slow, the process of urbanization got momentum after 1947. The process continued to a great speed up until now. From 1974 until 2011, urban population in Bangladesh has increased 6.8 times as compared to 1.7 times in the rural population. According to last Census data that took place in 2011, there is 42.70 million of the urban population in the country which has been projected as 98.6 million in 2030. Although Bangladesh is considered as a rural economy, the rapid growth of urbanization has superseded the contribution of rural economy in the GDP, meaning that the share of the rural sector to GDP has reduced from 74.64 percent in 1972–1973 to 57 percent in 2000–2001. On the other hand, urban contribution to GDP has increased from 25.36 percent in 1972–1973 to 43 percent in 2001. Finally, it has been argued in this chapter that the age-old “rural–urban divide” has become problematic in the context of growing urbanization and rapid advancement of the rural sector in Bangladesh, which has necessitated the interfacing between rural and urban areas.
Pranab Kumar Panday

4. Intergovernmental Structure and Functional Assignments of City Corporations

This chapter concludes that the intergovernmental structure and functional assignment of the CC is yet to take a formal shape as there are overlapping within spheres and between spheres of different administrative units of government. For instance, CCs have been assigned, through the provision of laws, a long list of functions to perform. On the other hand, different government departments have been entrusted with these sorts of activities to perform through the provision of other laws. Moreover, CCs have limited space for autonomy as they are controlled by the central government. As a result, we have experienced different realities on the ground than what is written in the laws.
Pranab Kumar Panday

5. Effective Local Political Structures and Leadership

The effectiveness of functioning of the urban government bodies depends to a large extent on the degree of responsiveness and accountability of the local political leadership. This chapter concludes that the mayor of CCs exercises supreme power over the administration of the CCs. Thus, the importance of mayor is a thousand times greater than the councilor. Although CC elections take place on nonpartisan manner, this election plays a significant role in molding national politics, as we observed in case of five CCs election in 2013. Thus, the political parties informally put their best efforts to win as much mayor and councilors as possible. In order to ensure effective leadership at the CC level, the recommendations given in this chapter could be taken for implementation.
Pranab Kumar Panday

6. Local Administrative Powers of City Corporations

This chapter concludes that CC does not have exclusive control over most of its functions including recruitment of staff, decision-making, planning and implementation of development activities, and taxation. In most cases, there are avenues where the central government could exert control on the functioning of the CC which is not at all helpful for effective functioning of the CC. Lack of autonomy over different activities has made the CCs incapable of performing in accordance with the hopes and aspirations of the citizens. As a result, the citizens are being deprived of availing good urban services from the CCs.
Pranab Kumar Panday

7. Local Fiscal Autonomy of City Corporations

It has been argued in this chapter that the current urban government system is evidently under heavy control of the central government that has weakened their operational capacity. The capacity to provide services results from a combination of the skill levels of public employees, adequacy of local resources, and commitment and willingness of local government institutions and their employees. Budget resources are scarce in Bangladesh. Budget pressures tend to postpone actions that can most readily be postponed, especially when there are large cost consequences. Urban governments routinely defer maintenance of facilities, which erodes their service delivery capacity. Under this circumstance, all CCs need to pay particular attention to improving revenue management. Thus, the revenue–service link between municipalities and residents is the key to fostering greater accountability. This suggests that requiring more households to pay even very small amounts for services may deepen local democracy and municipal accountability.
Pranab Kumar Panday

8. Local Participation and Accountability

It has been claimed in this chapter that there is hardly any scope for the general mass to get involved in the governing process of the CCs. Whatever scope of participation has been created remain restricted within the elite people only. On the other hand, the process of holding elected representatives accountable for their actions by the common people is not strong. The election has become the only opportunity for the citizens to adjudicate performance of their representatives
Pranab Kumar Panday

9. Conclusion and Recommendations

It has been specifically argued in this chapter that centralization and decentralization are not “either–or” conditions. In most countries, an appropriate balance of centralization and decentralization is essential to the effective and efficient functioning of Government. Not all functions can or should be financed and managed in a decentralized manner. Even when national governments decentralize responsibilities, they often retain important policy and supervisory roles. They must create or maintain the “enabling conditions” that allow local units of administration to take on more responsibilities. Central ministries often have crucial roles in promoting and sustaining decentralization by developing appropriate and effective national policies and regulations for decentralization, and by strengthening the local institutional capacity to assume responsibility for new functions. The success of decentralization frequently depends heavily on training for both national and local officials in the decentralized administration.
Pranab Kumar Panday


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