Interview: Mr. Sharjil Memon, Minister for Local Government, Sindh
In your opinion how important are the local Government elections in improving democratic governance in Pakistan?
This will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that local government elections will be held under a democratic setup and on a party basis. Local bodies are the third pillar of democracy and these should be strengthened as guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan. Democracy is incomplete without local governments and their establishment will strengthen the provincial as well as the federal government.
In your opinion, what will be the fundamental areas of responsibility for newly formed local bodies in your province?
Local bodies should maintain municipal services like water supply, sewerage, primary education and basic health units. These are the key responsibilities of these bodies. Local bodies could also impose local taxes to generate income. Provincial governments will provide funds and collaborate with city, district and taluka (sub-district) governments so they perform effectively.
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?
Through this law, passed by the Sindh Assembly, local bodies can generate revenue by imposing local taxes. The law has devolved the financial, administrative and political powers guaranteed to the local governments in the Constitution of Pakistan. I believe that this law will be more beneficial for the masses (compared with the previous experiences of local governments in Sindh).
What are the three key strengths of the Local Government Law in your province? Please explain.
Local bodies can impose local taxes to generate income. They have to provide basic health facilities and primary school education. These bodies can also enact useful municipal legislation. I think if the local bodies work properly, they can play a constructive role in the development of the province.
How does the Local Government Law in your province empower local elected leadership in development planning and improving service delivery?
Local bodies will have separate development budgets, and the power to impose local taxes. The Provincial Government will also provide them with funds. This funding will enable them to play their role positively and to complete development schemes improving infrastructure.
What are the fiscal powers devolved to the districts, tehsils and union councils/neighbourhood councils in your province?
The Sindh LG Law gives a lot of fiscal powers to the districts, tehsils and union councils and these powers are devolved to local bodies according to their population and demography. There is room for further devolution and in time more fiscal powers will be devolved to the local bodies.
In your view what would be the political and development impact of the elected local government in your province?
In the absence of elected local bodies, their functions are run through the bureaucracy. After the elections, which will be held on a political party basis, local leaders will run the affairs of these bodies. I believe that the local politicians can better perform their roles in this regard and the masses can more easily approach their local leaders than the bureaucrats.
How would you compare your provincial law on LG with the other three provinces?
We made our best effort with this law and I think the legislators of other provinces also made good efforts in this regard. I studied the laws of the other three provinces, especially Punjab’s local government law, and I found many similarities. On the other hand, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan legislators also made good efforts and Baluchistan is a step ahead of the rest as they have already held the local government elections.