Decentralisation, Governance and Municipal Budgeting Debated
The School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS) hosted a seminar - presented by Lecturer Mr Glen Robbins of Development and Population Studies - on decentralisation, governance and municipal budgeting in Brazil, South Africa, India and Peru.
‘In the past few decades there has been an ongoing process of reform in local government systems across the developing world,’ said Robbins. ‘This has been influenced by parallel processes of citizen pressures for greater influence in governance processes alongside the ever-present influences on governance reform originating from dominant agendas in globally influential policy organisations.
‘Around the world, such political and administrative decentralisation processes have been accompanied by varying degrees of engagement with spatialised data and knowledge.’
Robbins said research in the Chance2Sustain project had provided insights into the potential and pitfalls, for both administrators and citizens, associated with enhancing connections between forms of spatialised knowledge and municipal fiscal processes, particularly in the realm of property taxes.
He suggested that the cultivation of connections between budgetary processes in cities and a variety of spatialised knowledge and information systems could offer some potential in terms of a range of issues such as a way of record-keeping, as a decision-making tool and even for transparency and accountability.
‘The potential for spatialised data to be used in enhancing development outcomes has been widely argued. Geographic information Systems (GIS) have been increasingly taken on board as administrative and management tools in supporting property tax systems in cities,’ said Robbins.
There were two features of these trends that needed ongoing attention among policy makers when considering the scope for these systems of spatial knowledge production to support improved governance outcomes.
According to Robbins, in the first instance the data used in such property tax systems does need to enhance transparency and citizen access to ensure the systems are exposed to sufficient external scrutiny in that they avoid a bias towards the powerful land-owning groups. Secondly, the GIS systems had considerable potential to be used in a wider municipal budget and fiscal processes.
‘Not only can technical production of spatial knowledge help inform budgets but such systems can also contribute to citizen participation platforms where needs are captured for budget discussions and ultimate allocations.
‘For these potentials to be realised it is important that actors within and outside municipal structures be equipped to work with these systems and the related tools to avoid them becoming another layer of complexity which ends up excluding people,’ said Robbins.