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Elections over, time for Regional bill, and State Finance Commission

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Urban DevelopmentGovernance

Good riddance. With the local election drama over, it is time to focus on things that will really empower a local government for Bangalore. And they are?

  1. Functional Empowerment : Some sort of Regional Governance Bill (a mix of Kasturi Rangan co's recommendations and Abide's Regional Governance act proposal), and,
  2. Financial Empowerment : Clarity on how and how much of direct and indirect taxes paid by you and me will come back directly to our city!

Relatively speaking, topic #1 is better known of the two. There have been reports recommending local governance reforms for Bengaluru Metropolitan Region:

  • See Kasturirangan Committee report here.
  • And, mention of a Karnataka regional governance act by Abide, here.

What exactly is topic #2? Regional autonomy is fine, but how much can a local government do without much control of its own financial health? Development follows money. Changes to regional governance (functional empowerment) need corresponding changes for financial empowerment as well. What do we have here?

  • Chapter 10 from the Report of 13th Finance Commission. (it found detailed mention in Mr Ramesh Ramanathan's Mint article)
  • What else on Financial empowerment front? Refer to the government's decisions on Administrative Reforms Commission’s 6th Report titled “Local Governance – An Inspiring Journey into the Future”, (link here), and notice the recommendation #9 (The State Finance Commission). Notice point #d (Sl no 28, at the very end of page 4):
SFCs should evolve objective and transparent norms for devolution and distribution of funds. The norms should include area-wise indices for backwardness. State Finance Commissions should link the devolution of funds to the level/quality of civic amenities that the citizens could expect. This could then form the basis of an impact evaluation.

Has Karnataka started towards this or other recommendations made to State Finance Commissions for empowering local governments? No idea at all, as I can't even find a website maintained by Karnataka State Finance Commission.

So bottom-line, lets get down to real business if we can. The soon to be elected local government needs some real empowerment, or else the city will be lost to the confusion between corporators, Abide, B* agencies, Mr Ashok, Mr Katta Naidu, and Mr Yeddy.

Comments

silkboard's picture

State Finance Commision - lots to do?

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Page #5 of ARC's recommendations on Local Government has a lot of items that have been accepted by the union government, but not implemented yet at the state level.

e. The Action Taken Report on the recommendations of the SFC must compulsorily be placed in the concerned State Legislature within six months of submission and followed with an annual statement on the devolution made and grants given to individual local bodies and the implementation of other recommendations through an appendix to the State budget documents.(29)

Anything like above done yet in Karnataka?

Read more ...

h. SFCs should carry out a more thorough analysis of the finances of local bodies and make concrete recommendations for improvements in their working. In case of smaller local bodies such recommendations could be broad in nature, but in case of larger local bodies, recommendations should be more specific. With historical data being available with the SFC, and with the improvement in efficiency of data collection, the SFC would be in a position to carry out the required detailed analysis. The special needs of large urban agglomerations particularly the Metropolitan cities should be specially addressed by the SFC.(32)

How has Karnataka state finance Commission addressed special neds of a large Metropolitan area like Bengalurur? Nothing done here yet, right?

silkboard's picture

In lay-person terms

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A lot of above sounds like greek and latin, let me try in easier terms

  • Direct tax: Money collected directly from citizens. Central govt collects Income tax, Local government collects property tax
  • Indirect tax: Money collected indirectly from us by state or central governments. Like the VAT that you pay when buying anything. Or the entertainment tax you pay to the multiplex or IPL when buying tickets. Or the taxes, cess etc whe you pay for petrol.

How much of the tax you and me pay comes back to our local area, and how exactly does it travel down - that is the key thing to understand.

  • Property tax goes directly to BBMP, very clearly (who did you write the check to?). But even there, as mentioned in Ramesh's article, collections need to be 5 times higher than they are.
  • Extra money that we pay for Petrol in Bangalore, how exactly does that come back to Bangalore? Likewise for Entertainment tax (which goes to state), or various other cess (ex: education cess in phone bill, goes to Center) that we pay to state or center.
  • How much of income tax paid by us comes back to support public works in Bangalore. JNNURM etc are adhoc measures, is there a clear way of sharing funds between central (Delhi), state (Karnataka), and City (Bengaluru)?

All of us need to demand a clear, transparent, and non adhoc way for center, state and local area to share funds (as in direct control of funds) for development work across the three tiers of governments. Without such clarity, changes to functional structure of government (Metropolitan Council, Board, directly elected mayor etc etc) wont do much. Creating new governing bodies would be like building new towns, but far far away from roads, rails or rivers :)

Naveen's picture

Great - This is what needs tackling!

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SB - excellent thread. I had similar thoughts when I wrote the flwg on the another thread here.

Briefly, if states were mandated to collect all taxes from within their areas, including income-tax, sales tax, central excise, commercial taxes, etc. & share such collections with the central govt on say, a 60-40 basis, as also budget for expenditures in the same ratio (viz. 60-40), this alone would lead to much better performance as follows :


1) States will have incentives to improve tax collections since they benefit if the collection is larger, thus there would be better efforts followed by much higher collections.
2) Budget allocations under various heads will be dependent on priorities as decided by the concerned state & not based on a centrally administered budget, in most cases.
3) There is greater chance for better checks on corruption since the state becomes more directly responsible for collections, especially with reference to income-tax, which is being dodged by a staggeringly huge mass of people.
4) Competition between states will also help push efforts to collect more income tax from all those that fall under the net, but do not pay up.
5) No mutterings such as "Maharashtra contributes so much but gets so little".

The idea is to employ a closed loop within each state, as much as possible & escape the centrally administered budget funding & the inherent biases & inefficiencies based mostly on party considerations & political compulsions that have notoriously been plaguing the country & retarding it's progress. There will thus be "rich" states & "poor" states, & the rich states will be able to better address their priorities directly, whilst the poor states will aspire to improve & get on par with other rich states - a healthy economic competition will brew up, instead of state heads & party leaders making numerous trips to Delhi to get something sanctioned, which again depends on the central govt's own political compulsions.

Exceptions will of course be :
1) Poverty elimination programs where some states will be much more dependent on central assistance than others, based on human development & financial health of individual states.
2) Defense budgeting.
3) Foreign affairs.
4) Calamities funds.

Though railways & other national services such as highways, ports & harbors need to be administered centrally, development would take place based on state contributions also & budget sharing, thus, it would depend on what the state wants & not based on central govts own priorities.

 

Collection of all taxes locally at source is on one extreme, but we need to push for reducing the problem of an overlong, indirect chain between what is paid by local users (a growth sector) & the funds that are brought back to bear for local needs - development, services & maintenance. In fact, there is no close relation nor correspondence between revenues generated locally & resources allocated for development, demand & maintenance - thus, the system is deficient & weak as it more or less depends on 'political' needs of the ruling party rather than actual.

Escaping budget funding by creating closed loops with dedicated funds to a much larger extent than at present, wherever possible is also, perhaps the best way to involve citizens more actively as the ward committees will become more directly responsible for addressing local citizens' grievences & accounting of cash flows.

silkboard's picture

Naveen, that is only state vs center angle

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Naveen, what you talk above is state vs center angle, and focus is more on collection. How you collect taxes is one thing, and then how you distribute it across the 3 tiers of governance (center, state, local area) is another.

As an example, even if center collects all income tax, do we know things like these on distribution side?

  • What pecentage of it is shared with the state,
  • and how is the distribution percentage derived?
  • And then, how much of its share does state share with the local areas?
  • Should state get all the percentage meant for itself and its local areas, and then decide how to distribute that further between local areas,
  • or should the allocation be done by the center directly to local areas?

Both Collection as well as Distribution of Taxes needs some thinking to better enable local governments.

Ravi_D's picture

CFCs, SFCs, ULBs & Decentralization

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@SB: Good start!

Look at this USAID (India) report for some insight. 

Here is the link to the PDF

Take your time to read to understand the intricacies involved. Covers, among many other things, how SFCs evolved and performed (generally poor), how devolution of powers and functions to ULBs are undermined by local unwillingness to pay for services, and ULB fiscal powers &  fund transfer criterion.

silkboard's picture

Note on Karnataka SFC

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What exactly is that document Ravi, and on USAID website? Anyway, here is what it says on Karnataka State Finance Commission

Karnataka. The first State Finance Commission of Karnataka took a strong position on functional devolution to the local level. It argued that the spirit of the 74th Amendment required that all functions listed in Schedule 12 be devolved exclusively to the local level:

 

"If the true spirit of 74th Amendment to the Constitution is accepted, all the functions enumerated in the 12th Schedule of the 74th Amendment are expected to be performed by the municipal bodies and no other agency is constitutionally entitled to perform them.… We consider that the state government will have to respect the spirit of the 74th Amendment. Therefore, we recommend that all functions of urban development boards constituted in the state, and all town planning units operating in the state, should be brought under the jurisdiction of the respective municipal bodies. Even the functions of the Bangalore Development Authority and the Town Planning organization have to be transferred to Bangalore City Corporation. They cannot function independently hereafter.… This is the ultimate objective of 74th Amendment and should be respected.

 

Our recommendations [are] intended to remove dual control and multiplicity of agencies which have proliferated over the years and reduced ULBs to insignificance. (p. 37)"

 

The state government ignored this part of the SFC’s recommendations. The second State Finance Commission of Karnataka backed away from sweeping recommendations about devolution of functional responsibilities. It implicitly assumed the continuation of existing institutions, while arguing for greater clarity in demarcation of the roles of different agencies and greater clarity and enforcement of the rules for interaction. However, it did not offer specific guidance as to how this could be accomplished at the operational level.

Now, where is Karnataka SFC based, and who heads the current SFC?

Ravi_D's picture

Document Source

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I happened across this UI/USAID document quite some time ago, finding info on state of ULBs in India. Quite an informative read. 

Seems like it is a project initiative by Urban Institute, in collaboration w/ USAID (India).  One of the authors is from National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, New Delhi. Here is what the document has to say:

 

The Urban Institute (Washington, D.C.), with support from the United States Agency for International Development/India (USAID India) has reviewed the performance of the State Finance Commissions (SFCs) in the context of the emerging decentralization framework.

BTW, as a side note, I have also seen tonnes of informative pieces to read on USAID website

 

Ravi_D's picture

Property Taxes

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Researching the author of the previous report, found this study on Urban Property Tax Potential in India, sponsored by 13th Finance Commission. Don't have time to read it now, but certainly another one in my list of things to study.

The All-India estimate of property tax yields varies between a low of Rs. 6,274.4 crore and a high of Rs. 9,424.4 crore, or between 0.16 and 0.24 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). These are far below the average for the developing countries (0.6 percent) and 0.68 percent for the transitional economies.

idontspam's picture

Good report Ravi.

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States have been reluctant partners in the process, with many of them showing unwillingness to devolve responsibilities and revenue sources as contemplated by the 74th Amendment. Urban local bodies for the most part have expressed little desire to take on additional service responsibilities, have rejected efforts to transfer taxing authority to them, and have rarely made full use of the discretionary taxing authority now available to them

If ULB's delegated the powers of managing the ward level infrastructure to the ward committes, then they will have enough bandwidth to take on revenue collection responsibilities. We as citizens need to push this to happen.

Public Agenda's picture

3 reports of 3 SFCs

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the IIIrd SFC report has been given to the CM in Feb finally

First report was by Thimmaiah in 1996 second in 2002 heade by two chairs

last Feb in 2009 the CFC members met the GoK members also

but the real culprit is the KUIDFC who agreed to a GoK Urban Finance Framework as part of the loan agreement for KMRP in 2006. This has been prepared by CRISIL

all the docs are not on any website because the GoK, WB and KUIDFC beleive they are not for the public

But hard copies are there. Other docs like GO etc are there on web pertianing to implementing SFC -II recos. The second SFc also changed the weightage criteria for allocating funds from literacy to road lentgh which is creatring further problems

the CRISIL report further complicates.....

lastly do see the report on the 6th report of recos accepted or rejected

http://darpg.nic.in/arpg-...

 


silkboard's picture

Hard Copy of 3rd SFC report?

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Dear Public Agenda (nice name) - do you have access to hard copies of 3rd SFC report? We will scan and put it up here,

Anything else you have access to that is not easily accessible to public (as in not there on interent)?

Naveen's picture

Will decentralisation really work ?

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Not according to Justice Santosh Hegde.

“We have enough intelligent people but few honest & intelligent people. We’re no longer a third-world country. Decentralisation and panchayat raj have only encouraged corruption. Has administration reached the villages? No. But what has reached our gram panchayats and penetrated villages is corruption and politics. We’ve exposed innocent villagers to corruption.”
“Do we have a government which can say is the people’s government? After the 1970s, I haven’t seen a government like that.’’

See article in today's TOI here.

silkboard's picture

No progress on these yet

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So 6 months after the local elections

  • Drafts of regional governance act (proposal) have been floating, no action yet, nor any serious discussion in public spaces (if you exclude Praja :).
  • Financial empowerment - no word, no news.

All that has changed in the city is that few more middlemen (some of them corrupt - ask Justic Hegde) are added to the already complicated governance setup.

  1. South city Ashoka,
  2. North Katta,
  3. 8 MLAs,
  4. and now 8 dozen corporators as well.
  5. A BDA that goes to CM for every little thing (including allotment of plots).
  6. A BMRDA which is mostly missing in action for 3 years now.
  7. Then, still in news ABIDe, chaired by MPs, one elected, one nominated.

Cobweb would soon be a synonym for local governance in Bengaluru.

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