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Question of fairness
Posted:Jul 14, 2017
 
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Several bills relating particularly to the distribution of resources between the three tiers of government are in discussion in Parliament.
 
They are Local Governance Bill, Inter-Government Financial Management Bill, and Bill on the Distribution of Natural Resources and Finance Commission. These bills are therefore supposed to specify, among others, the provisions governing local levels’ functions, the way natural resources are distributed between central, provincial and local governments and financial resources collected and divided among the three.
 
The federal system adopted in the country is being implemented for the first time and there are numerous areas that have to be defined and clarified to make it possible for them, particularly provincial and local governments to operate well.
 
The local bodies of the past are different from the local levels of the present, which are indeed local governments with their greatly increased powers over a much expanded jurisdiction and whose existence and tenures have been made secure by the Constitution itself.
 
For example, the Constitution has specified twenty-two distinct areas of jurisdiction of the local level and a somewhat smaller number for provincial governments. That is why, the proposed ratios of distribution of resources should be determined in such a way that all the three tiers of government may be able to play their constitutionally guaranteed roles successfully.
 
But the bill relating to natural resources and finance commission propose the ratios of 78, 7 and 15 for the distribution of revenue between central, provincial and local governments, respectively. These ratios have been criticized by several lawmakers cutting across party lines on the ground that the local levels will be weakened by such distribution.
 
Without adequate resources, government at any level would be unable to deliver. Government leaders, concerned agencies and lawmakers should focus and a thorough debate can bring out suggestions for improving the proposed provisions.
 
Indeed, the beauty of this constitution is adequate powers given to local levels, which means a vibrant grassroots democracy and local autonomy where local people can have a direct stake and a say. But too little money for them means that they have to be over-dependent on the central government, which would make them unable to deliver.
 
Another point of criticism relates to the provision that local levels have to spend forty percent of their resources on overhead expenses. But exactly in what ratios resources should be distributed among the three cannot be properly decided by a heated debate but by a cool headed analysis of the various factors involved. Indeed, the provisions of the bills could be amended.
 
As such distribution is being proposed for the first time there would certainly be much room for improvement even after enacting the related laws, and experience should guide future amendments. But the points raised by the lawmakers should be seriously heeded and judged in light of the various relevant factors to determine fair ratios of distribution.
 
Self-governance also means identifying one’s own resources, and not depending too much on the central government.
 
Dropped out girls
 
The Golden Thousand Days programme launched in Rautahat district has helped dropped out girls to return to schools. Many girls who were forced by their parents to quit studies have resumed their classes after a gap of a couple of years.
 
The girls from the Madhesi and Muslim communities have been found to have dropped out of the schools, not by their own will, but by their parents’ pressure. Most parents interviewed by the programme said they found it a financial burden to send their daughters to schools as they cannot afford to buy educational materials and uniforms.
 
But most parents have changed their mind after a rigorous campaign by the programme. It was found that most of the girls dropped out of school before they completed the primary level of education.
 
They have now rejoined the schools after the programme provided them with educational materials and school uniforms. If girls are encouraged to go to school through various incentives it will help lessen early marriage and teenage pregnancy, maternal and child mortality rates.
 
More and more girls should be sent to school to impart them with useful skills so that they can earn for their living after studies.
 
The Himalayan Times, July 15, 2017
 
 
 
 
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