looking for

Problems of Democracy- Fragile Local Government System

Autonomous local government is one of the most vital institutions of democratic governance. Modern democracy is almost unthinkable without devolution of power to the local governments. Due to increase of population as well as to huge expansion of governmental activities certain matter of policy and administration concerning national and international interests as are reserved for central administration and the rest wide range of governmental functions are vested in local authorities .
The system of local government helps in different ways to bring transparency and efficiency within the state administration. First, it helps to solve local problems locally and relieves the central government much of its responsibility to deal with trifle and local matters. Second, it relieves MPs much of their burden of local responsibilities, which people usually expects from MPs. If local government is institutionalized, they will help develop leadership from the grassroots level giving gradually a strong base in democracy. Elected local government should be autonomous and independent of the executive and the local administration should be under the control of the local government. But in Bangladesh every government has kept colonial mentality in respect of nourishing this institution. ‘What we have now are not local government, they are simply a minor executing arms of the national government’.[1] The government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh being a democratic one, is committed to the people to establish local government at various level. Article 59 of the Bangladesh constitution provides that local government of every administrative unit ‘shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in accordance with the law’ and they will perform functions relating to: a. Administration and work of public officers; b. The maintenance of public order; c. The preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development. Article 60 also empowers the local government to exercise ‘the power to impose taxes for local purposes’, to prepare their budgets and to maintain funds. But no government so far has taken proper initiative to fulfill the aspirations expressed in the constitution with regard to institutionalization of local government. Although the local government bodies in Bangladesh enjoy a degree of operational autonomy, they are in no way independent of the central government.[2] The central government control over elections of the local bodies which is manifested in the decisions regarding mode of elections, dates of elections and settlement or disputes. The national government also unduly interferes in the day-to-day functioning of the local government bodies. In the field of finance, central government supervision and control is as stringent and comprehensive as it is with regard to day-to-day administration. The government in the first instance regulates the income of these institutions by prescribing in details, the source of income powers of taxation, nature of available grants-in-aid and the loans they may be raised. The national government also specifies that the funds of the local bodies be kept in a government treasury or a bank transacting business with a government treasury. The government also prescribed the procedure and principles for the preparation and sanction of annual budget whereby they severely curbed the independence and autonomy of the local government bodies.

[1] Muhith, AMA. op. cit., p. 32.
[2] Siddiqui, Kamal, Local Government in South Asia, UPL, Dhaka, 1992, p. 180