Local Polls: Birth Of Local Government
With the successful local level election across the country, except for Province 2 where the poll will be held on September 18, an unprecedented form of local government has come into being. Unlike the previous local units under the unitary system, present ones as formed under federal system are substantially different. These have huge budget and a lot of rights and responsibilities. These are far more powerful than the previous ones as their rights are provisioned in the constitution. As per the powers/jurisdiction of the local level enlisted in Schedule 8 and 9, and formation and functioning as enshrined in Part 17 and 18, of the constitution, the local level has its own executive, legislative/assembly, security (police) and judiciary body as well, a local level that is to say rural municipality, municipality, sub-metropolitan or metropolitan city, is a miniature state/government in itself. Surely, a birth of real local government has taken place with the local poll.
The local levels are to use nearly 18 per cent of the total annual budget of the country this year. Of Rs.1278.99 billion annual budget allocated for the coming Fiscal Year 2017/2018, the local level will get Rs. 225.05 billion or 17.6 per cent of the total budget. Of which, Rs. 148.63 billion is allocated as equalization grant and Rs. 76.41 billion as conditional grant. As per the budget allocation, rural municipalities will receive minimum of Rs. 100 million and maximum of Rs. 390 million, municipalities will get minimum of Rs.150 million and maximum of Rs. 430 million, sub-metropolitan cities will have minimum of Rs. 400 million and maximum of Rs. 630 million and metropolitan cities minimum of Rs. 560 million and maximum Rs. 1.24 billion as per the grant allocation.
Similarly, a sum of Rs. 76.41 billion has been allocated under the conditional grant for the local level. Under this arrangement, rural municipalities will receive minimum of Rs. 12 million and maximum of Rs. 172.20 million, municipalities will receive minimum of Rs. 39.50 million and maximum of Rs. 312.70 million, sub-metropolitan cities minimum of Rs. 148 million and maximum of Rs. 310 million and the metropolitan cities minimum of Rs. 281.2 million to maximum of Rs. 783.9 million.
Moreover, it is provisioned that relevant sectoral ministries will support projects and programs with budget up to Rs. 5 million in rural municipality, up to Rs. 10 million in municipalities, and up to Rs. 20 million in sub-metropolitan and metropolitan cities.
If we make a rough calculation of the equalisation grant, condition grant and the support of the sectoral ministries for a project to be received by a local level, a rural municipality will get at least Rs. 117 million and Rs. 562 million at maximum while a municipality will get at least Rs. 199 and Rs. 742 at maximum for a year. Now, if we add the amount of revenue of the local government under various headings, the budget of the local level will be much more than this figure.
Obviously the local levels are getting a huge budget even if we consider the size of the budget and the local unit in the past and the size of the budget and the present local level. But the present local levels have many more responsibilities as well. With the budget, the central government has also transferred many programmes to the local level.
According to the budget speech, the local levels will have to perform almost all programs related to agriculture and livestock development service including programs on commercial agriculture production pocket and block development, One Ward one Agriculture, small irrigation, piggery and poultry farming cooperative program and livestock market promotion program.
Similarly, most programmes previously implemented by the Department of Forests and the Department of Plant Resources including medicinal plant development programme, local level implemented programs on soil conservation and community development along with forest/watershed management projects are to be implemented at the local level.
Programs on underground shallow tube-wells, irrigation renovation and maintenance project, new technology based irrigation projects and prosperous Terai-Madhes Irrigation Development Program, and special land based river control program and valley market conservation program for its implementation are with the local level.
Budget has been transferred for the roads of regional and tourism importance, construction and improvement urban road projects. The local level is to implement ongoing tourism infrastructure development programs.
The majority of the existing local level projects run by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development will be transferred to local level including the town sector infrastructure development programs, waste management technical centre, rural water supply and sanitation program, local transportation infrastructure sectoral program, small irrigation, golden thousand days program, local road improvement program, environment-friendly local governance program and roads connecting to economic centre. The programs for the improvement of deprived, disadvantaged and dalit classes have been transferred to the local level.
Most programmes related to education are to be done by the local level, including the salary of teachers of Grades 1 to 10 of basic and secondary level, grant for remuneration of school staffs and remuneration as well as operational expenses of supporting staffs to child development program, grant for the operation and management of schools up to secondary level, teaching-aid materials and book corner programs as well as budget related continuous student learning, the purchase of books to be provided free of cost for the student up to secondary levels, student/dalit scholarships.
The list of responsibilities of the local level is very long when included their works related to health, drinking water and sanitation, climate change, sports, cultural promotion and protection and women development programme.
Given a new situation and huge chunk of budget, rights and responsibilities, it is highly needed that the functionaries of the local government are imparted with capacity building training so that they perform their duties efficiently. Sadly, there is no budget allocation for this. But then, the central government can make the arrangement for this instead of leaving the task for non-governmental organisations. Moreover, the representatives of the local levels have a very important task of making the foundation of the federal system strong and carrying out development activities. They should be prepared on many fronts, particularly on preventing corruption and misuse of budget, before the budget is transferred to them by mid-August.