On August 10, 2017 Samriddhi Foundation hosted an ‘Econity’ discussion on the Local Level Governance Bill, 2017. The discussion featured representatives of the Government of Nepal, development community, legal sector, private sector and the media, deliberating over the duties, responsibilities and powers of local governments as provisioned for by the Bill.
As Nepal gears up to make a transition towards a federal system, there is a degree of confusion among the public and the local representatives of the people regarding the duties and powers of the elected bodies in the lack of a clear policy/legal framework regarding their functions.
Mr. Khem Raj Nepal, former secretary of the GoN opined that the Bill exhibits features of a command from the centre to the local governments, rather than being a facilitating tool for the local governments. He also added that it is not possible for the centre to foresee all matters that will come under the purview of the local governments in the future, and thus the Bill should not try to preempt and regulate all activities already.
A number of participants expressed that this Bill retrogresses from the Local Self Governance Act by taking away the revenue generation capacities of the local governments. They held an opinion that although the Constitution confers a number of authorities to the local governments, this Bill does not really facilitate them in terms of being able to deliver as per those.
Representatives of the private sector identified that the whole Bill mentions ‘private sector’ in only one place, on crisis management. This, they added, reflects the apathy of the government towards the private sector. On the other hand, local government seems to be bent on raising taxes as the primary means of generating their resources. To this, private sector representatives expressed that the Bill also fails to consider the well-being of the private sector.
Former AIG Dr. Govinda Thapa shared that local governments should invest on building close relationships with the police administration under their jurisdictions. He maintained that could be problematic down the line (for example, a mayor fails to respond to an urgent security concern) if a culture sets in whereby the police force is exclusively operated by the federal government.
Participants also stressed the need to devise a different Metropolitan City Act in light of the fact metropolitan cities differ from the municipalities in many regards.
Econ-ity is Samriddhi Foundation’s regular discussion platform for sharing perspectives from different sides on political economic agendas that are important in the contemporary context. It constitutes of both an online forum and a face-to-face discussion on the issue.