Wants it to be able to earn enough revenue
How much would you be willing to pay KMC to properly pick up your garbage? Rs200 a month? If say you have ten houses in your street, that could mean Rs2,000 rupees. Now, what if you had to dispose of that garbage yourself? You’d have to get a minimum wage cleaner and pay for a truck and its diesel to drive the garbage to the nearest dumping site—unless, of course, you are happy to chuck it at the end of the street.
This snapshot may have nothing to do with reality but it gives us an idea of how important it is to have good ways of running and paying for city services. Right now Karachi doesn’t have the money to keep these services running properly and needs to rely on the Sindh government for pocket money.
Cities across the world make money by doing roughly four things. Charging service fees for public parking, toll roads, garbage collection, building permits. Fining people for violating its rules, such as littering parks, doing building construction without a safety fence. Charging taxes on property transactions, carbon from vehicles, and unused or vacant land. Managing its assets such as beaches, parks, auctioning billboards.
It appears that the Sindh government is trying to move in this direction now. It has formed a committee to give more power to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to earn money. The minister for local government, housing & town planning is its chairman, Nasir Hussain Shah. KMC Municipal Commissioner Afzal Zaidi is the secretary. Its members include the local government secretary Najam Ahmed Shah, KMC Administrator Laeeq Ahmed, Public Private Partnership Unit DG Khalid Shaikh, KMC financial advisor Afaq Saeed, a representative of the Sindh Finance Department.
Their job will be to do the following: map Karachi’s assets, propose KMC’s re-structuring to improve its ability to earn, prepare a plan generate money from the assets, prepare a plan to take over the medical services from the KMC and other local councils of Karachi and hand over to the health department of the Sindh government.
The meeting is supposed to meet every two weeks. It has three months to get this done. Afzal Zaidi told SAMAA Digital that the committee has just been formed and its chairman will call a meeting in the coming days.
One of the main reasons KMC is so poor is that the Sindh government itself actually stripped it of the power to charge taxes and fees when the PPP came to power. These changes were made slowly over the years by passing or changing laws. Now it appears that the Sindh government is slowly going to undo its own handiwork.
Explainer on KMC’s budgets
There has long been talk of it changing the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 to this effect. This new committee is a step in that direction.
The last local government elections were held in 2016 when MQM’s Wasim Akhtar was elected Karachi’s mayor. He was extremely vocal about the SLGA 2013, saying it strangled KMC’s ability to do work and earn money. In fact, the MQM even went to court and filed a petition against the Sindh government, demanding a return of KMC’s powers as laid out in the 2001 law.