Takshashila councillor Mukul Asher talks about Bangalore, public finance and urban governance in his interview with DNA. This was on the sidelines of his lectures on public finance, municipal budgeting and a review of BBMP’s budget for students of the B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubation Program (B.CLIP).
Speaking on the role of the programme, he said that B.CLIP can provide economic literacy to future politicians, enable them to ask the right questions and improve policymaking from the ground up.
Q: It’s agreed that Bangalore is in a mess. The most difficult thing to get out of a mess is to find a starting point. What can be a starting point for Bangalore?
A: Out mindset is still that we are largely a rural country. But India is rapidly urbanising. By 2040, the majority of the population will be urban. Yet, we have not given enough focus either on a policy level or in terms of governance structures or resource raising to urban issues. We find that Bangalore is not so unique in the Indian context. It is also not so unique in terms of middle income countries. For example, a city like Jakarta has many similar types of issues. It is not just one thing or one factor or initiative that will bring about a change. There should be a much higher priority for urban issues. And the urban management and urban accountability/transparency need to be aligned. We still have state governments who appoint municipal commissioners. Mayors have very little power. So, the time has come to rethink as to how we create an urban governance structure where there is a sense of responsibility, accountability and transparency. Multiplicity of agencies, the split relationships between states and urban bodies on one hand, and states and the union government on the other, are all leading to fragmentation of responsibility and the way resources are allocated. We now need a more integrated and newer ways of addressing urban problems. This is going to take time, but the debate has to begin. In the meantime, for municipal corporations like the BBBMP here as well as in other cities, there is a need to make them a lot more professional and provide them with the backup support that they need in terms of technologies, financial and budgeting system, so that we can begin to get better urban outcomes.
The full interview can be read here.