The 4th South Asia Economic Network Conference on “Subnational Finance and Local Service Delivery” concludes in the capital on Sunday.
The programme was organised by South Asia Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM), South Asia Economic Policy Network and the World Bank.
The session started off with a discussion titled “The Role of Fiscal Decentralisation in Improving Education and Health”, chaired by Professor Shamsul Alam, senior secretary, General Economics Division of Bangladesh Planning Commission.
Megha Rao, Indian Institute of Managementa, Mutawakkil Ahmad Abbasi, School of Public Policy of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and Ashani Abayasekara, Institute for Policy Studies of Sri Lanka presented three papers in the session.
Dr Manish Gupta, assistant professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi; Sunera Saba Khan, research economist, SANEM and Dr Gopi K. Khanal, joint secretary, National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission, Nepal also took part in the discussion.
The first session was followed a special lecture on “Bangladesh Local Government Public Financial Management Systems Assessment” by Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director, Policy Research Institute. Dr Bazlul Haque Khondker, chairman, SANEM and Professor of Economics, University of Dhaka chaired this session.
“Local Government Institutions’ revenues are only 13 per cent of their own resources. Neither do they have the ability to generate resources, nor does the central government assists them. This tells us a lot about how we are treating our local government institutions,” said Dr Mansur in his lecture.
The special lecture was followed by the session “Social Networks and Local Service Delivery”, chaired by Dr K A S Murshid, director general, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
Two papers of the session were presented by Dr Atonu Rabbani, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka and Saheli Bose of Jadavpur University, India.
Dr Rabbani presented his paper on “Why Contacts Matter: Local Governance and the Targeting of Social Pensions in Bangladesh”.
Kosack and Fung (2014) suggest that in many cases, public oﬃcials and other local decision makers may actually be willing to serve the poor, but lack the relevant knowledge to do so.
Dr Rabbani and his co-authors showed that in such situations, policy interventions focusing on monitoring and accountability can actually be counterproductive. It is thus important to fully understand the reasons of mistargeting to design the optimal remedies.
“Information and how we receive information is crucial when it comes to social pensions”, he said.
Saheli Bose presented her paper on “Social networks and political participation: Does ‘neighbourhood effects’ influence the allocation of household public goods?”
The concluding session titled, “Lessons Learned and What It Means for the Relationship between Different Tiers of Government” was conducted by Dr Hans Timmer, chief economist for South Asia, World Bank.
Dr Selim Raihan, executive director, SANEM and professor of economics, University of Dhaka chaired the concluding session.
“I want to point out that while indeed there is a pull towards decentralisation and a need for decentralisation in South Asia, there is also a growing trend towards centralisation and a need towards centralisation in all over the world. These two trends are incredibly consistent with each other”, said Dr Timmer.
The concluding session was followed by a policy expert panel discussion on “Subnational Finance and Local Service Delivery in South Asia: Challenges, Lessons and Remedies”.
The discussants for this segment were Dr Israt Husain, advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan, Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, chairperson, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, Dr Ahsan H Mansur and Dr Selim Raihan.
Dr Hans Timmer moderated the panel discussion.
The panel discussion was followed by the closing ceremony of the conference, conducted by Dr Robert Beyer and Dr Selim Raihan.
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