Striking a balance between the elite and the poor:
CMC to formulate participatory budget
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
“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”,
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
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
“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.