Wahab says health, education not municipal functions – Journal

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KARACHI: The city administrator, lawyer Murtaza Wahab, on Thursday defended the provincial government’s decision to take over health and education functions from local governments, saying they were not municipal functions.

Speaking at a Karachi Shehar Kese Kam Karta Hai (How Karachi City Works) forum, the administrator said education and health were not municipal but provincial functions, so it was decided that the government of Sindh would deal with these issues.

“The performance of the provincial government is much better than that of KMC compared to medical institutions,” he said.

The open forum brought together a large number of students from different colleges and universities. Metropolitan Commissioner Syed Afzal Zaidi, prominent citizens and civil society representatives were also present.

He said that the public-private partnership must be reactivated to improve the metropolis. “It’s time to use the powers and move on. Everyone has their own point of view, but we have to own our city.

The administrator maintained that he had always said he could not solve the 40-year-old’s problems in four months, adding that there should be no political blame game.

“Citizens must cooperate with the KMC [Karachi Metropolitan Corporation]. Karachi has been badly branded in the past even though the city is not that bad,” he added.

He said that when the time came for new boundaries in 2021, all political parties and stakeholders were consulted to reform the Sindh Local Government Act.

Lawyer Wahab claimed that local bodies had been given full powers under the new system to solve citizens’ problems and improve their standard of living.

“Once the funds have been collected, the population will be able to ask the elected officials where the money has been spent,” he added.

The administrator said there have been frequent whistleblowers about the lack of power in the past, which has become a common impression.

“As citizens, we have to decide whether we want to run institutions sustainably or not,” he said, adding that no house or institution could function without adequate income.

He said water scarcity was a major problem in the country and local, provincial and federal governments should work together to solve it.

“The provincial government is helping KMC set up a desalination plant in Karachi,” he said.

The administrator said the high-rise buildings were built in tight spaces due to the commercialization of 40 roads in the city, and the citizens ultimately suffered as the existing infrastructure was badly affected.

He said that if the situation were to be corrected, the municipal tax system would have to be run like other major cities around the world.

“We decided to levy a local tax of Rs200 per household on electricity bills like the PTV license, but this was severely criticized and it was said that the burden was placed on the citizens, although it was not the case,” he added.

He said it had been decided to collect property tax through local bodies under the new system.

“The provincial government took the decision with an open mind and also agreed to make up the shortfall in the first year,” he said, adding that 53 billion rupees was levied from property tax at Mumbai, only 1.6 billion rupees were collected in Karachi.

Posted in Dawn, January 14, 2022

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