Talking About Decentralization

Urbanization in a country is driven by social and economic changes that lead to industrialization and modernization. In the major developed and developing countries like USA, China and India, the concept of urbanization is perfectly applied in every sphere. And to mitigate the effects of urbanization, decentralization is a major tool.  Decentralization is the process of redistributing or dispersing urbanization away from the central location.

Since the very birth of our country in 1971, Bangladesh has prospered in different sectors such as education, information technology, medicine, transportation, energy, agriculture and so on. Bangladesh, being a developing country, is listed as one of the Next Eleven Emerging Markets. According to 2016 estimate, the nominal GDP of Bangladesh is $223.941 billion being the 44th nation in the world. According to 2016 estimate Bangladesh has 171.7 million populations in which the majority of total population lives in Dhaka, being the capital city of the country.

Well, Dhaka and Chittagong are the two busiest cities in Bangladesh. So many people live in these two cities. With this vast number of population on head, the government of Bangladesh has undertaken several steps of decentralizing the urban activities away from Dhaka and Chittagong. In many aspects, Bangladesh has the proper conditions for decentralization. According to the World Bank report, different donor agencies have supported decentralization and worked on improving the ability of local governments to do more at the local level. Non-governmental organizations have played a positive role to empower grassroots organizations and are actively supporting decentralization. Since Bangladesh has a large population, the government has chosen to decentralize their fiscal systems and governance.

World Bank and UNDP have underlined four distinctive types of decentralization for Bangladesh: Economic/Market Decentralization, Political Decentralization, Administrative Decentralization and Fiscal decentralization. The UNDP and World Bank teams think political decentralization can ensure greater participation of mass people and manifestation of different activities could also be easier than what it looks today. World Bank Thematic Team (WBTT) suggested the government of Bangladesh to disperse or shift the workloads of all the ministries into different cities. The team believes this could be more effective for the government of Bangladesh to handle administrative workloads since different Asian and African countries like Tunisia, Pakistan, India, Philippine and Kenya etc. have seen the benefits of administrative decentralization. WBTT believes decentralization transfers two things to local governments and private organizations: funds for delivering decentralized functions and revenue-generating authority for spending decision. The World Bank Team has also suggested Bangladesh Government for ‘Privatization’. They believe the planning and administrative responsibilities of public function from government to private or voluntary agencies can facilitate the processes of decentralization.

India is one of the closest neighbours of Bangladesh in the South-Asian region. From the very beginning, India has made proper use of efficient decentralization in its major cities. Since its independence, India has focused more on decentralization. Consequently different cities in India have gathered reputation for different roles. For example- Ludhiana and Punjab are famous for woolen garments; Tiruppur and Tamil Nadu are famous for Textiles; West Bengal is famous for Heavy Engineering; Mumbai is known as the best city for business; Chennai is called the ‘medical hub’ of India and Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India and the IT Capital of India.

In Bangladesh, most of the people believe Dhaka is the only city to fulfill their dreams in different sectors. Dhaka is the home to numerous state and diplomatic institutions. Thousands of people are gathering in different places of Dhaka in search of a better life. But, the city is currently burdened with staggering 17 million people. Chittagong, known as the port city, is another major city in Bangladesh. Chittagong is also facing an increasing number of populations day by day.

Moreover unemployment rate is increasing day by day even though the government has facilitated several employment opportunities recently. According to Trading Economics, the current unemployment rate of Bangladesh is 4.3%. Even though this rate is not so alarming but employment in the significant positions in the country has become sheer tough today. Bangladesh is prospering with Nominal GDP but the major industrial cities like Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal etc. are lagging behind since more and more people are settling in Dhaka and Chittagong. People in different other cities are not having proper facilities due to lack of proper urbanization. The financial market is also centralized in Dhaka and Chittagong. Consequently living cost in Dhaka and Chittagong has become very expensive.

Under such circumstances it has become difficult for the government to decentralize major institutions and offices from Dhaka and Chittagong solely. Different private and multinational organizations must assist the government in this regard at least by establishing new businesses in other cities. Higher employment opportunities in different sectors in other cities could be the only way to decentralize and ease the burden of urbanization in Dhaka.

Source: The Daily Sun. Date: 22 July, 2016