Eminent economist Prof Rehman Sobhan on Thursday said local public representatives should be held accountable, if they fail to deliver public services properly.
Otherwise, they should be voted out through competitive elections, opined Mr. Sobhan, also Founder Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
"The local government minister should oversee two things - whether or not the local government representatives are duly delivering public services, and the progress in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."
"He can instruct the elected representatives in this regard. If they do not deliver their services properly, they would have to face the electorate in free, fair and competitive elections."
Professor Sobhan made the remarks at the 'CPD-Oxfam-EU Conference on Democratic Governance and Local Development: Experience from Grassroots Citizens Organisations' at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the city.
Local Government Minister Tazul Islam was present in the programme as the chief guest.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun said inequality still prevails at all levels even after 50 years of independence (of the country). Inequality exists between village and town, between women and men, and between regions. The public services are not delivered to all by maintaining the same standard and with same opportunity.
She also noted that the health services and education opportunities were not improved for all during the Covid-19 pandemic, but for a section of private sector.
The marginalised people need to go to the public institutions for services. But it is necessary to involve people of grassroots levels to achieve the SDGs.
The term Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth gives an average concept, as the increase in per capita income is not same for all. So, the GDP growth becomes meaningless for that person who has no income, she noted.
Tazul Islam said the government had a commitment to become a developed nation by 2041 through democratization. But the government alone cannot reach the target, if people, civil society and media are not engaged in the process.
The government now takes only those projects, which would be beneficial to people, and not following pressure of donors to damage the country, Mr Tazul noted.
Referring to empowering of the local government institutions (LGIs), like union parishads (UPs), upazila parishads and city corporations, he said the country's situation might change significantly, if these institutions could duly deliver the services they have been delegated to.
"These institutions must be held accountable for their performance - not by police or intelligence agencies, but through citizens' engagement. UPs are responsible for delivering 142 services. But no institution or individual can deliver so many services overnight."
Citizen's Platform for SDGs has been implementing a project in 13 upazilas of 13 districts for the last three years, especially in the hard-to-reach areas where average poverty rate is over 50 percent, to monitor public service delivery in the LGIs and progress in meeting the SDGs.