'Only fiscally-independent LG system can improve governance'.

LAHORE -- Are local governments the answer to Pakistan's crisis?

'Of course, vibrant, powerful and independent local governments are the only solution to Pakistan's existential crisis,' said former principal secretary to the prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad in a session at the ThinkFest here on Sunday.

As the harsh term 'existential crisis' did not go down well with the packed audience, Mr Fawad added: 'In my view, Pakistan's essential crisis is its existence; other crises such as judicial, governance, fiscal, or name anyone, all are manageable.'

He was, however, quick to offer a recipe. 'We need to move forward with the restoration of local government institutions and student unions.' These two institutions could serve as nurseries for political and administrative leadership nurseries, he believed.

The former bureaucrat further said over the years, successive governments failed to deliver public services, such as free and good quality healthcare, education, etc, resulting in erosion of the public's trust in them.

'Government after government kept on following the top-down approach, meaning the fate of Rajanpur streets was to be decided by someone in a cozy room either in Lahore or Islamabad. There has been no public partnership in policies concerning human development.'

He said installing local councils under the pressure of the Supreme Court was not enough; they needed to be independent fiscally and administratively.

He believed restructuring of the National Finance Commission was the best way to give local governments fiscal power, and that fiscal devolution and limiting laws could result in meaningful devolved councils.

Mr Fawad also said political parties were aghast at the idea of local councils because 'it deprives the MPAs and MNAs of public funds, development schemes and makes a councillor more powerful'.

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