Mayors will have to generate innovative ideas to run their municipalities more efficiently, said Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) Minister Md Tazul Islam on Sunday.
He made the remark at a national policy dialogue titled "Strengthening the Urban Local Governments in Bangladesh." He also stated that the LGRD will organise trainings for newly-elected mayors to generate innovative ideas – and more income – as well as run their municipalities well.
Addressing the event – held at a city hotel in Dhaka as part of the Local Government Division's Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project – Tazul Islam also recommended dissolving municipalities that fail to pay their employees' salaries for 12 consecutive months.
In response to complaints from mayors regarding a lack of cooperation between government organisations, the LGRD minister said, "The government does not have a loophole, but there are bottlenecks preventing the organisations from working together."
"So, all government organisations have to make a concerted effort to ensure cooperation with each other. They must also work together to empower the poor people living in urban areas," he added.
Regarding the capital city, Tazul Islam said, "Dhaka is not a livable city, and the major reason behind the issue is over-density. The standard is 50 people per square kilometre, but multiple times higher than that number of people is now living in each square kilometre area of the city."
"A comprehensive solution is needed to fix this issue. Many believe the construction of more high-rise buildings will accommodate more people, but this is not a solution. Residents of those buildings will use roads to go about their daily lives, and the congestion will remain the same," he continued.
The minister added, "So, just increasing the number of high-rise buildings is not a solution, we have to consider the reality before taking any steps. The LGRD ministry is working proactively to eliminate all these issues and alleviate the poverty of the urban people."
Speaking at the event, Power and Participation Research Centre's (PPRC) Executive Chairman Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said a multi-dimensional approach is needed to eliminate issues related to the urban poor.
He added, "Local economy and institutional development, as well as capacity building, is crucial for city corporations and municipalities to make good progress. Authorities will have to ensure a sustainable density of urban population."
"The services provided to the people living in slums have to be improved. Authorities must keep in mind that 55% of our GDP comes from the service sector and a big number of people involved in the sector lives in slums. So it has to be strengthened," he continued.
"We are making good progress in terms of innovation, but we need to gear up our efforts," he said.
Present at the event, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson said urbanisation is the reality, and Bangladesh is doing well on poverty reduction. He added that the Local Government Division project will help it further.
"Poverty reduction is important for development and this project will bring a good outcome," he added.
Local Government Division Senior Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed, the United Nations Development Programme's Resident Representative Sudipto Mukerjee also spoke at the programme, among others.
Dozens of mayors from city corporations and municipalities across the country also attended the event, including Sylhet City Corporation Mayor Ariful Haque, Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and Gazipur Mayor Jahangir Alam.