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Striking a balance between the elite and the poor:

CMC to formulate participatory budget


Omar Kamil

Preparing budget proposals for the administration of the commercial capital of the country seems to be a challenging task. This task is becoming a more challenging one when the city is administered in the absence of people’s representatives.

The Colombo Municipal Council which is now being run under the administration of a Special Commissioner appointed by the President, following the dissolution of its council few years back due to corruption charges levelled against its Mayor and some of its councillors is facing this challenging task at present.

Special Commissioner Omar Kamil now in charge of the Colombo Municipal Council is now taking up this challenge of preparing the budget for the year 2012 by evolving a participatory budget concept to strike a balance when preparing the budget in the absence of peoples or the ratepayers’ representatives in the council.

“I was of the opinion that we take the view of all the stakeholders into account and prepare a budget representing the views of all stakeholders of the Colombo city,” explaining his new concept the special commissioner Omar Kamil said.


CMC trade union representatives at the meeting with the Commissioner to present their views on the participatory budget

At the first instance we had the meeting of the Heads of Departments, Deputies, Accountants and middle level management of the Council and spelt out our task and ask their proposals as to what they would like to be included in the 2012 Budget.

“At the second stage, we are going to get the opinion of the other stakeholders of the Colombo Municipal Council and had our first meeting with Trade Unions of the CMC on Thursday to obtain their views, their suggestions their proposals what they like the budget to be like and what they like the city to be look like at the end of five years,” Kamil added.

“I told them to dream and tell us what they like the city to be in five years and tell us to prepare the directions to achieve that goal”, Kamil added.

At the third stage the CMC authorities are meeting the community leaders from the 1500 underserved settlements located within the city.

These community leaders have been elected from the underserved settlements and registered with the Public Health Department and contributing their service to the Council on voluntary basis.

“As the next step we are publishing newspaper advertisements on August 1 inviting the views of the civil society, the ratepayers association , the professional bodies, NGOs Voluntary organizations for the Budget 2012 before August 25”, he added.

“This has been initiated as new form of a new culture or concept to get the involvement of the stakeholders when preparing budget”, he added.

The normal practice was to prepare the budget through the representatives of the people or the Members of the Council.

Members of the Councils are elected to serve in different committees like Standing Committee of Finance, Environment, Solid Waste etc. Budgets in the past were formulated by the Mayor inviting the proposals, suggestions and the Member from these various committees.

When these proposals are submitted to the Mayor, he takes all these voluntary proposals into account and the Treasurer is empowered to take the best proposals in consultation with the Mayor to be incorporated to the draft budget.

So the Mayor, in consultation with the Deputy Mayor, Municipal Commissioner, decides on the proposals which has to be included in the budget as it is a political thing.

All these proposals are included taken into account the anticipatory revenue and the anticipatory expenditure of the forthcoming year. “In that the Mayor also should include any new avenues of income in the form of taxes and licences”, he added.

There is a reimbursement of salaries of the Council staff by the Provincial Councils upto a certain percentage but the balance has to be borne by the Council by the ratepayers’ income.

The earnings or the money the council get through property rates. That is the main source of income of the Council.

According to Kamil of the 120,000 of the households in the city 60,000 are assets and the balance are non- assets. Only 60,000 are contributing rates and taxes from which we have to spend for the balance 60,000 households and also for the floating population.

“So in this context in the past Mayors taking in to account suggestions through the standing committees of the Members he infuse his thoughts and draft budget.

Once the draft budget is prepared it is presented to the Members and then the Budget is submitted to the Council within the last month of the year as it has to be approved to spend the funds for the new year,” he added.

“In the absence of the Council we have evolved a methodology to get that views from the different stakeholders, community leaders, unions, heads of department and the civil society.

And this we hope will be a example even for the other councils to make use of a concept where participation of other stakeholders are involved in the making of the budget, Kamil added.

Further explaining the challenges the CMC has to face when making the budget, Kamil said they have to taking into account the fact that the city is undergoing an accelerated development program.

“We have to improve the infrastructure particularly in the commercial areas in the more affluent areas and also at the same time we have to look into the welfare of the low income settlers,” he added.

The Public Assistance Department, the Public Health Department through Western and Ayurvedic dispensaries and through the sports and recreations department assistance is provided to improve the quality of life of the low and middle income groups of the city.

”When looking at sports and recreation department as we are going to promote a healthy life healthy living concepts where we are encouraging the public particularly the younger generation to participate in this programmes of where younger children can be involved to participate exercise at the sports grounds,” he added.

Another area the CMC is going to focus its attention is the public library and the educational areas.“We have one main public library and 15 branch libraries. We need to extend the 15 branch libraries further.

Then we have mobile library we have ordered another bus to have another mobile library,” he added. The next year budget will take into account the quality of life in the low income settlements to be improved through infrastructure development through Nagamu Purawara programme.

It will focus on improving the quality of life in serving the people in underserved settlements where public utilities toilets water facilities community centres,lighting has to be improved.

The Community Centres and Reception Halls will also be improved to improve the quality of life of the low income settlements.

“Through the community centre only we can improve the fitness of people. We can create much stronger and healthy life among the Colombo citizen. Through that kind of programme we can reduce the number of non communicable diseases among the people thereby reduce the number of people attending dispensaries on daily basis and reducing number of the patients suffering from blood pressure diabetes heart ailments and cancers,” he added. The development of the roads and foot walks for the people to walk freely on the pavements will also be looked into. “We are coming out with innovative ideas to create overhead bridges for the people to cross roads without obstacles,” he added.

“Through these programmes we are trying to strike a balance between the low income groups and the elite in the city by treating them in equal manner when preparing budget proposals for the year 2012 adopting participatory budget concept,” he added.

 

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