Efforts to amend the Local Government Act 2008 have been ongoing for more than two years. With the withdrawal of the Bill, through a unanimous vote from the members of the National Assembly, it is going to take more time.
While the Bill has been dropped for numerous reasons, the old problems will continue to haunt us again.
There are barriers in the Act that many say do not allow the central government to work together with local governments. The LG Bill was expected to allow greater roles for the Members of Parliament in the development plans and activities at the local levels. Members of political parties cannot be associated with local governments due to perceptions of politicisation.
The LG Act is one of the Acts that the law review task force has recommended for amendment. The LG Act was drafted after referring to similar Acts from Europe, Switzerland, Germany, India, and China but it has been criticised by both elected leaders in the central and local governments for being “too tight” or restrictive.
We know the gewogs lack human resource and capacity. However, they would be getting increased budgets in block grants. This could lead to more leakage in funds and compromise the success of development activities. The country’s ambitious vision of decentralisation could suffer as a result.
The Bill had proposed an amendment to make it necessary for gups, mangmis and thromde thuemis to have a minimum of Class X qualification. Setting such a qualification threshold for the LG members did not go down well with many serving LG leaders, who have served for a long time but did not attend modern school.
These individuals yield a strong influence in the local community. Are the lawmakers worried about this? Such controversial provisions could have consequences for both political parties and the Members of Parliament.
The Bill has been withdrawn after deferring it two times. We cannot wait for long. The lawmakers cannot let it fade into the shadows of other priorities for the Bill will determine one of the most important aspects of good governance.
If the government feels the amendment of the Act could take longer then changing the rules and regulations for now could save a lot of confusion and pains for both the government and the local leaders.