Interview: Mr. Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Local Government Minister
In your opinion, how important are, local government elections in improving democratic governance in Pakistan?
I think the local government bodies are the basis of the democratic system; they are nurseries of democracy and for local level development. Streets, street light, parks, primary education and other such matters are dealt with by locally chosen representatives of local bodies. They are a very important organ of government and democracy as well.
In your opinion, what will be the fundamental areas of responsibility for newly formed local bodies in your province?
I think the primary work area for local government is and should be the local problems of the people. The security situation is the responsibility of the national and provincial governments, as well as large projects like roads, flyovers, big buildings, etc. Besides these large projects, all other constructive and social work must be carried out through local bodies.
How will the local government law, passed by the Provincial Assembly, ensure the sufficient devolution of financial, administrative and political power to newly formed local bodies?
The LG act provides a single line budget through the provincial finance commission with the criteria of population and lack of development. Funds will be submitted or transferred to the local government or local bodies and they are fully empowered to use those funds according to their own requirements. They will pass their budgets according to their own needs without any interference and they will execute expenditures through the year on their own. So there is full financial autonomy for the local bodies to use their own resources and resources transferred by the provincial government. They will enjoy full financial autonomy.
What are the barriers to the development of effective local government structures in Pakistan?
There is a lot of space for capacity building because the capacity of local bodies to execute large development projects is in question.So the most urgent need is for capacity building in local bodies to execute development projects.
What are the three key strengths of the LG Law in your province?
The three strengths are the areas that we are giving financial autonomy in. We have introduced district education authorities where the authority will comprise the elected members of local bodies and the provincial government power will be there for the district education committee to exercise to improve education in that district. The same is true for the district health authorities and we are introducing reconciliation committees and Panchayat committees in the LG Act. These are very strong interventions by the present LG Act. I think that the sooner this system starts; the sooner things will come out.
There is always space for improvement. Things are always tested when there are put into practice. When this LG Act is put into force, many things will came out. Because it is the product of the Provincial Assembly, we can amend or improve the act at any time.
What do you think are the gaps in LG law in your province?
There is no gap. We had very lengthy discussions in the Special Committee and we have tried our best to improve and fill all those gaps. There were gaps in the previous local body system. When this act is enforced and practiced on the ground, those things will come out in time.
How does the LG Law in your province empower local elected leadership in development planning and improving service delivery mechanisms?
In this local government act we have given all powers to make their budget to conceive the development schemes and to execute them. So there is all power with these local bodies to conceive to execute and then operate the development schemes in their respective areas.
What are the fiscal powers devolved to the District, Tehsil and Union/Neighbourhood Councils in your province?
As I have said, the province will transfer to the local bodies of that district one budget line, which will be determined by district. All these bodies will be empowered to use that budget in accordance with the rules and regulations regarding budgetary and development schemes.
In your view, what would be the political and development impact of the elected local governments in your province?
I think that basic democracy must be from doorstep and up to the provincial and federal levels. The local bodies, run through their chosen representatives, will have a very good effect on the local development of those areas and the people will benefit more through their chosen representatives in the local bodies.
How would you compare your provincial law on LG with other three provinces?
I think that all are good. Some are more progressive in the sense that besides local development-like streets, parks, and streetlights-we are also giving them vast powers in the education and health sectors through district health and education committees.