More local government

Wanted: power and authority

The elections for local government are over. So soon, and for the first time, we will have local governments – thromde tshogdes, gewog tshogdes and dzongkhag tshogdus – elected and empowered by the Constitution according to which:

Power and authority shall be decentralized and devolved to elected Local Governments to facilitate the direct participation of the people in the development and management of their own social, economic and environmental well-being.

The local governments that were recently elected will serve for five years. But the first elected parliament and the current government have less than two years left in office. So it’s important that the government, parliament and local governments work together, as soon as possible, to reach a common understanding of the Constitutional requirement that “Power and authority shall be decentralized and devolved to elected Local Governments…”

That’s why, yesterday, the opposition party proposed that financial authority should be decentralized to local governments. That is, they should be provided annual block grants which they themselves would decide how and for what to use. Obviously, rules would first need to be framed defining limits, outlining procedures, and fixing accountability.

The current practice of approving annual budgets submitted by the dzongkhags is cumbersome. And it is restrictive. That’s part of the reason why local governments have not been able to make full use of their capital budgets.

Instead, give them annual grants. To begin with, the grants could be more or less equal to the budgets they currently receive. And what they receive is a pittance. So the government should be more than ready to give local government’s that much financial autonomy.

But the government is not ready. They argued that annual grants and annual budgets mean the same thing. They argued that decentralization and devolution of power and authority must take place incrementally. And they argued that the Local Government Act requires gewogs and dzongkhags to submit budget proposals for the government’s approval.

The government should reconsider. They should refer to Article 22 Section 18(c) of the Constitution which states that:

Local Government’s shall be entitled to adequate financial resources for the Government in the form of annual grants

And to Article 22 Section 18(d) according to which:

Local Government’s shall be allocated a proportion of national revenue to ensure self-reliant and self-sustaining units of local self-government



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  1. It is much easier to speak than do. I think what is written in the constitution can so literally taken and implemented.

    LGs currently do get resources on an annual basis and use them based on the local priorities approved by the GTs and the DTs.

    I think OL still needs to understand a lot on how the LGs function before suggesting new ideas

  2. On this issue, I fully agree with OL. Govt should decentralize the authority tot eh local govts. The capacity building has to be a learning by doing process. If we stick on to the long standing concept of incremental decentralization subjected to capacity building of the local governments, the day will never come for a fully capable local government. Risk taking is the best way of imparting capacity building exercise.

    If the elected local leaders fail to demonstrate their capability or intend to practice corruption, it will an opportunity of the next candidate. Everyone must be given the opportunity to take risk and learn!

  3. to have local govt that is effective they must be allowed autonomy, financial, administrative, & political..the govt probably wants control over local govts & will not let go easily.. govt will, true to their track record, pay lip service, like they have proven on so many issues ..local govts on the other hand are new, lack experience & are intimidated..
    in my opinion, local govts should be part of the political system at the centre..& our political system should not be party based but allow independent candidates..after all, most voters would exercise their franchise in relation to the candidate..having local govt be part of the centre would ensure greater accountability & do away with the post of dzongdas which have become redundant..dzongdas could be replaced by the mps..mps only meet in parliament twice a year anyway.. this will justify the mps big & multiple pay increases within the last 2 years, their allowances for driver, fuel, house, & other benefits they enjoy now for no real input..

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