Local Government, Rural Development & Cooperatives Minister Md Tazul Islam said that the municipal councils must focus on increasing income or face dissolution as the Government plans to change the law in this regard.
“City Corporations and municipalities follow their own laws. They must take responsibility for generating and increasing their revenue as per their laws. If they fail to pay the salary of their staff for 12 months, we are planning for their dissolution,” he said adding, “This is not believable that the inhabitants of municipalities cannot pay tax.”
The Minister was addressing a National Policy Dialogue on “Strengthening the Urban Local Governments in Bangladesh” at a city hotel.
Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) of the Local Government Division (LGD), Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and UNDP Bangladesh organised the dialogue in collaboration with Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) Bangladesh and IPE Global (India).
Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman, PPRC, chaired the dialogue while Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Local government Division, Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh also spoke.
Robert Dickson said Bangladesh’s progress in recent years in poverty eradication and several human development fronts is remarkable, although sustaining progress has proved more difficult in the urban context in recent years.
“Addressing urban poverty and marginalisation is therefore a top priority for FCDO to ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.
The High Commissioner said they are happy to see local government, citizens’ platforms, local businesses and private sector partners working together to address locally-specific vulnerabilities due to poverty and climate change.
“Empowering urban local governments is important to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and we aim to support continued collaboration on this.”
Sudipto Mukerjee said that many of the challenges in eradicating urban poverty have remained unaddressed in Bangladesh.
The country needs serious investments in urban social protection. Bangladesh is yet to finalise its national urban policy, he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 18 percent of urban households were covered by social protection according to World Bank.
“With a prolonged crisis that has resulted in a significant rise in urban poverty, cities will require greater social protection coverage specifically targeting the newly created—as well as the previously existing—urban poor,” Sudipto said adding that the LIUPC project has been playing a considerable role as tried and tested model for urban social protection which can be considered for scale-up by the government.
City corporations and municipalities of the Local Government Division are responsible for delivering the basic urban services to the citizens.
But they face tremendous challenges to tackle the urban poverty for lack of resources and capacity.
The LIUPC project commissioned a series of research works in 11 city corporations and municipalities to identify their institutional and financial capacity gaps and make recommendations to overcoming the gaps.
The studies recommended for revision and approval of National Urban Sector Policy which has been in a draft format since 2013.
The studies also recommended for enabling the national government to mainstream urban poverty reduction efforts at the national and municipal level.
Dr. Salina Hayat Ivy, Mayor, Narayanganj City Corporation, Ariful Huq Chowdhury, Mayor, Sylhet City Corporation, Md Rafiqul Islam, Secretary General, Municipal Association of Bangladesh and Dipak Chakraborti, Additional Secretary (Admin Wing), LGD, were present as distinguished discussants of the dialogue.
Moderated by Ashekur Rahman, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, Abdul Mannan, Joint Secretary, Local Government Division and National Project Director, LIUPC Project and Yugesh Pradhanang, Project Manager, LIUPC Project, also spoke.