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Focussing on fiscal decentralisation

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The book is edited by M.A. Oommen, economist.
The book is edited by M.A. Oommen, economist.

N.J. Nair

The book, Fiscal Decentralisation to Local Governments in India, sheds light on the current issues of fiscal decentralisation.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has the distinction of launching pioneering initiatives in devolving powers and funds to the civic bodies and also taking such efforts to their logical conclusion.

Though the experiment of delegating powers and providing funds to the civic bodies has completed a decade, the branch of literature on the theory and practice of fiscal decentralisation is yet to grow and develop in strength. The proponents of decentralisation still look to the west for such literature.

The book, Fiscal Decentralisation to Local Governments in India, edited by M.A. Oommen, economist, sheds light on the current issues of fiscal decentralisation.

The volume of public expenditure handled by the local self-government institutions is negligible when reckoned in terms of the total public expenditure of the Centre and the States. Even more disturbing is the fact that even this insignificant share has been declining over the years.

“Seeing the fiscal decentralisation scenario, one is led to think that all the rhetoric about decentralisation has been sound and fury signifying very little in reality,” Dr. Oommen says.

Fiscal autonomy is the hallmark of genuine decentralisation. Urban civic bodies which raise over 52 per cent of their expenditure from their own revenue are better placed than the grama panchayats. The methodology of decentralised planning launched and institutionalised in the State, despite its weaknesses, has helped to widen the avenues of people’s participation. Anyone making a close scrutiny of the decentralisation progress in various States will be impressed by the statutory modifications and also by the institutional changes made to devolve functional, financial and administrative autonomy to the local governments in Kerala, he says.

In the book, a galaxy of experts, including Anwar Shah, Indira Rajaraman and Darshy Sinha, D.K. Srivastava and V.N. Alok, express their views on a variety of related topics.

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