Although Bangladesh is widely regarded as one of the most centralized countries in the world, a sea-change is about to take place in the role of local governments in Bangladesh.
On August 31, 2015, Cabinet endorsed a proposal to transfer the funds allocated by the government for meeting the salaries, allowances and other related expenditures of the officers and employees of local field offices. Rather than paying these salaries directly from the central government budget, in the future, these resources will be handed over to Upazila Parishads.
The Cabinet decision in this matter represents an enormous shift in the role played by local government institutions in Bangladesh. While Upazila Parishads were effectively re-established as local governments in 2009 (as a result of revisions to the Upazila Parishad Act and the direct election of Upazila Chairmen and Vice-Chairs), the service delivery role of Upazila Parishads is limited by the lack of financial resources and by the limited control of Upazila Parishads over field staff posted at the local level. While local government institutions currently represent only about 3% of total public sector spending, this ratio is likely to increase to at least 11-12 percent of total public spending of a result of the transfer of salaries and other recurrent resources.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the initiative was taken as part of the government’s efforts to further ensure accountability of the offices as the government believes in the people’s empowerment. He said that the move would also enhance the accountability of the public servants of the offices transferred to the Upazila Parishad under the Upazila Parishad Act 1998 (as revised in 2009).
A circular to implement the Cabinet decision is currently being prepared by the Cabinet Secretary.