Strengthening urban, local govt vital for attaining SDGs: CPD

Staff Correspondent

24th April, 2019 10:20:18 printer

Urban local governments will require more authority and resources as those are going to play a critical role in SDGs implementation in the country, Central for Policy Dialogue (CPD) said on Wednesday.

“Importance of this tier of local government has increased in the context of rapid urbanization. And it has an important role in 11 out of 17 goals,” commented Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, CPD’s distinguished fellow.

He criticized that execution of MDGs heavily relied on the central government which was major shortcomings of the agenda.

“Eradicate the tendency of avoiding power devolution,” Dr Debapriya said, also stressing on efficient resource generation, mobilization and management.

“Achieving the SDGs requires an inclusive and disaggregated approach as well as holistic and transformative approach,” he added.  The global urban population increased to 4.2 billion in 2018 which was only 751 million in 1950, according to the United Nations’ estimate.

The 2030 Agenda has a separate goal dealing with ‘sustainable cities and communities’ manifested as SDG: 11. 

The UN said around 65 per cent of targets and 157 indicators also requires urban policy response.

Like the global trend, Bangladesh is set to become more urbanized during the SDGs period from 2016 to 2030. Its urban population is projected to cross rural by 2037.

The urban poverty rate remains at 18.9 per cent while urban extreme poverty rate at 7.6 per cent in the country. Dhaka is ranked among the worst countries in terms of air quality and safety.

CPD says lack of integrated authority of the urban local governments is likely to hamper sustainable development for cities in Bangladesh.

Among all SDGs, the country’s average performance towards achieving SDG:11 compared to other SDGs is the second lowest as well as in a stagnating trend, it mentioned.

Besides this, achieving SDGs dealing with no poverty, zero hunger, healthcare, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequality, climate action, and peace, justice and strong institution will require urban local government’s strong role.

Speaking at the dialogue, Madaripur municipality mayor Khalid Hossain repented that even after having a strong will of undertaking poverty reducing schemes they cannot realize those due to financial constraints.

After the recent government pay hike, 60 per cent of the country’s total municipalities can not regularly pay staff salaries and allowances because of low revenues.

In reply, LGRD and Co-operatives Minister Md Tajul Islam said there is no alternative to raising revenues of municipalities.

“The government is committed to leaving no one behind in line with SDGs. But the challenge lies with the strengthening of local government entities,” he noted.

“We’re left with no other way but collecting more revenues by the municipalities to enhance their financial capacity,” he added.

For this, he observed that the income of people living in rural and municipal areas will have to be increased through automation of agriculture and other means.

About lack of authority, Khalid alleged that although there are constitutional provision and law, municipalities are dependent on central government because of the absence of rules.

Apart from resolving this issue, he also suggested empowering municipalities for making their own budgets.

Suggestions also came for strengthening standing committees of the municipalities and reforming women councillors’ election process and providing internet-based services by the municipalities.

Former election commissioner M Shakhawat Hossain alleged that local government’s basic structure is not in the right shape in Bangladesh as elected representatives are removed by administrative orders.

He emphasized on formulating new law so that such practice is stopped and any such removal requires court decision.