Policy Making in Urban Bangladesh: Whose Domination?

Ishtiaq Jamil's picture
The main purpose of this paper is to identify actors involved in the process of policy formulation in urban governance in Bangladesh and analyze the roles of dominant actors in the process of policy formulation. The study employed a case-oriented qualitative research method. Rajshahi City Corporation was selected as the unit of analysis. The available data substantiates that among three actors i.e. state, society and corporation council (parishad), the council is playing the dominant role in policy making. It has also found that the Mayor is the most dominant actor in the council as he draws support from the majority of ward commissioners in his favor. This informal network of relationship that the mayor nurtures resembles patron-client relationship where the mayor dominates by dint of his political linkages and administrative position, and acts as patron to dispense favor and reward to ward commissioners and other members in the network.
Main Article: 

1.0. Introduction

How is policy made in Urban Government bodies in Bangladesh? What actors are involved in the policy formulation process? By whom policy formulation process is mostly dominated and why? This paper intends to address these questions by examining the process of policy formulation in Rajshahi[i] City Corporation (hereafter RCC).

Urban governance in Bangladesh comprises two types of institution. For the six major cities, including the capital Dhaka, there are six City Corporations (Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Syllhet and Barisal) and about 308 secondary towns or municipalities (known as Pouroshavas). Bangladesh has not yet developed appropriate strategies, policies, and institutions necessary to cope with urban governance. The country has typically followed a centralized system of policy making and resource allocations, where the inter-governmental transfers are unstable, not well-defined, and lack an adequate system of incentive mechanisms. In spite of having a legal-institutional framework of a decentralized system of local government, in reality, there has been little decentralized governance at the local level. Besides, lack of fiscal resources and limited decision-making power of local governments, the level of decentralized government that exists has been largely ineffective because of the lack of accountability, concentration of power in the municipal executives, obsolete laws and regulatory framework, limited administrative capacity, lack of investment in human resources and weak supervision by the central government agencies. As a result, deficiencies in urban infrastructure and services, including water supply, sanitation, solid waste collection, and drainage and transport range are severe and at times extreme.

Success of any policy largely depends on policy design. If policy-making itself is problematic, it is expected that policy implementation will be jumbled. The process of policy-making in urban government bodies involves interface among different actors. It is the responsibility of the authority to make a sound policy by ensuring balance between different involved actors. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze the policy sub-system, policy-making process and role of dominant actors in the policy-making process of RCC.

1.1. Research Methodology

This study employed case-oriented qualitative research strategy. A descriptive and exploratory case study approach was utilized for this policy study because how, what or why questions were posed, the researcher had little control over the events and the focus been on contemporary phenomenon (Yin, 1994). In this regard, Rajshahi City Corporation had been selected for this study. The reason for the choice of case-study method was related to the problem of this study, which is a complex issue. As Cresswell pointed out that there are six assumptions in qualitative designs based on Merriam’s (1988) assumptions, qualitative researchers are concerned primarily with (i) process, (ii) interested in the meaning how people make sense of their lives, experience, (iii) the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and analysis, (iv) it involves field work, (v) is descriptive in that the researchers are interested in the process, meaning and understanding gained through words or pictures, (vi) qualitative research is inductive (Creswell, 1994). This strategy would likely be more appropriate for dealing with the subject matter of the study. In this study, the Rajshahi City Corporation had been selected among six City Corporations in Bangladesh for the following reasons.

First, Rajshahi is the fourth largest city of Bangladesh with a semi-cosmopolitan nature. It is the largest city in Northern Bangladesh and has resemblance with other big cities except the capital Dhaka, which has now turned into a mega city and as such may no longer represent typical urban Bangladesh. Therefore, Rajshahi is more representative of urban governance in Bangladesh. Second, northern Bangladesh is less industrialized and urbanized compared to other parts of Bangladesh. Livelihood is derived mostly from agriculture, and in dry and arid season known as monga, when access to food and employment opportunities is limited, people depend on government safety net and food security programs. Therefore, urban governance and public services are crucial for the inhabitants of this region.

This study was mainly based on qualitative data. The study had been conducted on the basis of primary as well as secondary data. Primary data relevant to policy-making process, involved actors and dominant actors in the policy-making process had been collected through a structured interview guide with closed and open-ended questions. Secondary data comprised various published documents (articles, books, study reports etc.), news papers, unpublished thesis, research monographs and online resources.

2. Definition & Operationalization of Public Policy

A policy is a broad guideline of actions designed to achieve certain objective(s) or goal(s). A policy can be divided into several programs or projects in order to realize the broader objectives as envisaged in the policy. A policy becomes ‘public’ when it is concerned with public interest and formulated by legal government machineries.

Public Policy is a complex phenomenon consisting of numerous decisions made by numerous individuals and organizations. A policy is the identification of what needs to be done; or a description of what usually is done, along with design of institutions and authority to do it. Policies can be explicit (written down or otherwise directly adopted) or implicit (understood from the way institutions behave). They are forged in many ways, and it may take years before there is enough of a consensus on what the policy should be, or it may emerge very quickly (www.cs.jmu.edu/common/coursedocs/isat231.ivory02.poliproc.doc). It is often shaped by earlier policies and is frequently linked closely with other seemingly unrelated decisions. Among the many competing definitions of ‘public policy’, some are very complex, while others are quite simple. Despite their variations, they all agree on certain key aspects. They agree that public polices result from decisions made by governments to do something or refrain from doing anything (Howlett and Ramesh, 1995).

William Jenkins defines ‘public policy’ as a ‘set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those to achieve’( Jenkins, 1978, cited in Howlett and Ramesh, 1995). In fact, Jenkins views public policy as a process. Another definition of public policy holds that, ‘broadly defined’, it is ‘the relationship of a government unit to its environment’ (Eyestone, 1971). Such a definition is so broad as to leave most of us uncertain of its meaning; it could encompass almost anything. Finally, let us note Carl Friedrich’s definition. He envisages policy as ‘…. A proposed course of action of a person, or government within a given environment providing obstacles and opportunities which the policy was proposed to utilize an objective or a purpose’ (Friedrich, 1963). Based on the above discussion, it would be well to spell out some of the implications of our concept of public policy:

  • Public policy is a series of decisions made by public institutions to act in order to address social problems on behalf of citizen’s interests or refrain from acting. It is purposive and goal-oriented action rather than random or chance behaviour.
  • It involves a number of actors both institutions and individuals who coordinate actions through formal mechanisms or through informal networks. Policy involves not only the decision to enact, e.g. a law on some issue but also subsequent decisions relating to its implementation and enforcement.
  • Once enacted, a policy is authoritative, legitimate and contains sanction mechanisms if it is not properly abided by citizens (e.g. paying tax).

In the present study, policy denotes decision taken by RCC authority on different sectors. RCC adopts and implements a number of policies mostly related to infrastructure development and maintenance, public health, waste disposal, and hygiene and sanitation. In the context of the present study, all decisions of RCC on different sectors will be treated as policy.

2.1. Local/Urban Government Categories and Hierarchies in Bangladesh

The rural/regional local government in Bangladesh consists of three tiers:

  1. Union Parishads (4501);
  2. Thana/Upazila Parishads (460);
  3. Zila (District) Parishads (64).

Urban areas have a separate set of local governments. The Bangladesh Census Commission recognized 522 urban areas in 1991 (with a population of about 5000 or more) but only about 308 of the larger urban areas among these have urban local governments. The six largest cities have a City Corporation status, while the rest are known as Pourashavas or Municipalities, which again are classified according to financial strength.

Table 1: Hierarchy of Urban Local Governments in Bangladesh

City Corporation Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna Rajshahi, Barishal and Syllehet
Pourashavas (Municipalities) 308
Category Annual income level[ii]
Class I Pourashavas 6 million +
Class II Pourashavas 2.5 million
Class III Pourashavas Less than 2.5 million

Source: http://www.unescap.org/huset/lgstudy/country/bangladesh/bangladesh.html and various news papers.

In addition, there are also some urban centers that are under Military Cantonment Boards. The City Corporation and Pourashavas (Municipalities) are true urban local governments. The large number of small urban centers is administered under the Union Parishad system (rural local government). Some urban centers have a fairly large population, but have not yet been declared a municipality, and, therefore, also remain under Union Parishad management. The existing structure of the urban-local bodies in Bangladesh can be shown by the following diagram:

FIGURE 1: Existing Structure of Local Government in Bangladesh


Note: The figure has been drawn by the authors based on Siddique, 1994: 325 and http://www.unescap.org/huset/lgstudy/country/bangladesh/bangladesh.html#....

3 Origin of Rajshahi City Corporation

The Rajshahi City Corporation started functioning on first of April 1876 as Rajshahi Pourashava. A eight-member town committee headed by the then Rajshahi College (one of the oldest colleges) Principal administered Rajshahi Pourashava. All members of the committee were nominated by the government. The district magistrate, sub-divisional chief and the chief medical officers were the members of the town committee by virtue of their positions. Later on, provision was made for the election of chairman and vice-chairman through voting by the taxpayers within the jurisdiction of the Pourashava. In 1884, a committee was formed comprising twenty-one commissioners. Among them, fourteen were elected and seven were nominated. For the effective delivery of urban services, eight urban committees were formed in 1930 and were responsible for administration, finance, manpower, light, water, sanitation, health and education. Decisions were taken in the Parishad meeting based on the recommendations of the various committees. Each committee was formed for one-year term and the whole urban area was divided into seven wards. The government then appointed administrator for Rajshahi Pourashava by dissolving the municipal committees on 5th august 1958. Till 18th February 1974, government officials acted as the administrator. On 13th August 1987, Rajshahi Pourashava was upgraded to Pouro Corporation and on 11 September of the same year, Pouro Corporation was changed to City Corporation. The first mayoral election of RCC was held on 30th of January 1994.

3.1. Legal Framework, Composition and Structure of RCC

The present legal framework of the RCC is provided by the Rajshahi City Corporation Ordinance, 1987 and subsequent amendments. Apart from these, there are other rules, by-laws, regulations and standing orders. In practice, the government simply adapted the existing Pourashava rules for the RCC. These are concerned with personnel, finance, contracts, elections, inspection, property, etc. relating to the RCC. Over the years, a number of criticisms have been made regarding the RCC’s legal framework. First, most of the rules, regulations and by-laws came into force a long time ago, and, hence, many of these have lost their operational value with the passage of time. In framing either the main law or the rules there under, the government undertook no meaningful consultation with either the RCC or outside experts. Second, some of these, with political overtones, have been subjected to frequent amendments for political convenience. Third, standing orders are basically executive decisions, and to allow the central government to use these even when it has two other legal instruments at its disposal to deal with the RCC does not make any sense. Fourth, the RCC does not possess the legal expertise to either creatively amend the existing by-laws and regulations or make new ones.

Under the Rajshahi City Corporation Ordinance, 1987, the total area under the corporation is divided into 30 wards to elect 30 wards' commissioners and 10 women commissioners (one third of the commissioners). The RCC is headed by the Mayor who is directly elected by the inhabitants of the city. As head of the corporation, all powers rest with the Mayor. It is entirely up to the Mayor to decide how much or what he will delegate to the lower levels. He can also overrule the decisions taken in the corporation meetings. The RCC is required to form 11 standing committees[iii] to deal with different activities.

With the prior approval of the government, the Corporation may also constitute additional standing committees for such purposes, as it thinks fit. A standing committee is required to consist of not more than six members, elected by the commissioners from among themselves. No commissioner is allowed to be the member of more than two standing committees at the same time. However, the Mayor is member of all the standing committees. A standing committee is to elect one of its members as chairman and another as vice-chairman. Besides, the concerned department head acts as the member-secretary of each standing committee.

All decisions of City Corporation are made in the Corporation Parishad[iv] which is composed of the Mayor and forty ward commissioners. The Corporation must hold meeting at least once in a month. Its meeting is presided over by the Mayor and in the absence of the Mayor; a commissioner is elected from among the members present for this purpose. The meeting is to be convened by the Mayor at any time, but in case is received a written request from two-thirds of the commissioners to hold a meeting, the Corporation is bound to call it. No business can be done unless the required quorum, which consists of one-third of the total members, are present, and all decisions must carry the support of the majority of the members present in the meeting. All members have one vote each and only in the case of tie the chairman exercises his casting vote (Rahman, 1989).

For carrying out the activities of RCC, it is divided into six administrative departments:. secretarial department, accounts department, revenue department, works department, sewerage department and public health department. Under each department, there are various branches.

3.2. Functions of RCC

The detailed functions of the RCC have been clearly spelt out in Part IV of the Ordinance. The functions of RCC have been categorized as ‘compulsory’ and ‘optional’, but the functions have not been listed under the heading of each category. For distinction of such functions, the use of the term ‘shall’ for some functions and ‘may’ for others in the Ordinance may be taken as a criterion of categorization. Although the City Corporations are empowered to perform a wide range of functions but in practice, they are not able to do so mainly due to acute shortage of funds caused by poor collection of taxes, non-realization of taxes from Government and semi-government establishments for years together, and insufficient grants from the central government (Murtaza, 2002). However, at present, the functions of the RCC are limited to the following:

The compulsory functions of the RCC include (i) Construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and culverts (ii) Removal, collection and disposal of refuse wastes and rubbish (iii) Provision and maintenance of streets lights (iv) Maintenance of public streets and provision of watering them (v) Provision and regulation of water supply (vi) Construction and maintenance of public markets/ shopping centers (vii) Plantation of trees on the road sides (viii) Regulation of unsanitary buildings (ix) Preventions of infectious diseases and epidemics (x) Registration of births, deaths and marriages (xi) Provision and maintenance of slaughter houses (xii) Provision and maintenance of drainage (xiii) Control over erection and re-erection of buildings (xiv) Provision and maintenance of graveyards and cremation grounds and (xv) Control over traffic and public vehicles.

The optional functions of the RCC include (i) Checking adulteration of foods and drinks (ii) Control over private markets and shopping centers (iii) Maintenance of educational institutions and provision of stipends to meritorious students (iv) Provision of floods and famine relief (v) Provision and maintenance of parks, gardens and playgrounds (vi) Establishment of welfare homes, orphanages and prevention of begging (vii) Establishment of public dispensaries (viii) Provision of public toilets (ix) Establishment of veterinary hospitals (x) Registration of cattle sales and, improvement of livestock (xi) Celebration of national holidays (xii) Reception of distinguished visitors/ persons (xiii) Establishment of public libraries and reading rooms (xiv) Promotion of community development schemes and (xv) Naming of roads and numbering of houses.

4. Policy Sub-system of RCC: Involved Actors in the Policy-making Process

Policies are made by policy sub-system consisting of actors dealing with a public problem. The term ‘actor’ includes both state and societal actors, some of whom are intimately involved in the policy process while others are only marginally so. Policy sub-systems are forums where actors discuss policy issues and persuade and bargain in pursuit of their interests. During interactions with other actors, policy actors often give up or modify their preferences in return for concessions from other members of the sub-system. These interactions, however, occur in the context of various institutional arrangements surrounding the policy process and affecting how the actors pursue their interests and ideas and the extent to which their efforts succeed (Howlett and Ramesh, 1995).

Actors in the policy process may be either individuals or groups. There is, however, almost an infinite variety of actors who may be members of policy sub-systems and participate in the policy process, which makes the task of preparing a comprehensive catalogue virtually impossible. Howlett and Ramesh (1995) divided the policy actors into three broad categories i.e., organization of the society, organization of the state and organization of the international system.

Based on the above theoretical discussion, we have tried to discuss the policy subsystem of Rajashahi City Corporation and highlight who are the dominant actors in the policy process. Generally, there are three types of actors involved in the policy sub-system of RCC. These are State, Society and Corporation Parishad. Now, questions may be raised as to who are the dominant actors.

State: The state does not have any direct influence on the policy-making process of RCC but can exert indirect influence as the RCC depends fully on the central government grants for its development budget. Besides, it can also exert influence through its own political party and the minister[v] in charge of the city. However, in the case of RCC, the Mayor belongs to the political party which is in power. So, the government sometimes tries to implement policies of its own preference through the Mayor[vi].

Society: The Society has limited or no influence in the policy-making process of RCC. There is no formal mechanism to include civil society organizations in the policy-making process.[vii] In Bangladesh, there is a growing trend that civil society organizations act as ‘watch-dogs” of government policies, such as Transparency International and raise voices when any policy seems to be discriminatory. However, in Rajshahi, the trend of emerging civil society organization is poor. There is only one civil society organization in Rajshahi city, which is called Nagorik Committee (Citizen Committee). In spite of the fact that some of its members are affiliated to the Awami League, the party in power at present, this organization has limited influence on City Corporation policy-making process as there is no formal mechanism to include them. Moreover, most of the leaders of this organization have ties with left-wing politics which did not fare well in the last regime led by the rightist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), with active support of some religion-based parties. Therefore, there is no tradition of including civil society organizations in the policy-making process of the City Corporation.

Corporation Council (Parishad): The whole policy process of RCC is dominated by the Corporation Parishad as Rajshahi City Corporation Ordinance, 1987 confers it absolute authority. According to the law, every matter related to the development of RCC has to be approved by the Corporation Parishad. The existence of the actors in the policy sub-system may be depicted by the following figure:

FIGURE 2[viii] : Policy Sub-system of RCC


Note: The figure is drawn by the author based on Howlett and Ramesh, (1995).

The above figure shows the mapping of policy sub-system of RCC. It can be said that the policy process is mainly dominated by the Corporation Parishad. The state through several mechanisms tries to exert an indirect influence on the policy process and sometimes becomes successful. But, the society can not influence the policy process at all. Civil society organizations are in no position to persuade the policy process of RCC, as they suffer from weak organizational base at Rajshahi.

5. Process of Policy Formulation of RCC: Whose Domination and Why?

All the policies of RCC are passed in the Corporation Parishad, that consists of the Mayor and forty elected ward commissioners, including ten elected women commissioners. Actually, in RCC, there is no policy as such. Like the central government, the RCC does not have clear-cut sector-wise policies like, health policy, education policy, infrastructure policy, etc. They undertake various projects for the development of different sectors. For example, for the development of the infrastructure of RCC, they undertake several projects at the beginning of each financial year. They do not, however, call all these projects as infrastructure policy. They take decisions on various projects undertaken by various departments. During the later part of the financial year[ix], every department makes their demands notifying various projects for the forthcoming financial year. The normal process is that each department places its demands before the concerned Standing Committee. Then, the demands of each department are considered and recommended in their respective Standing Committee meetings. After the demands are recommended, it is placed before the Corporation Parishad meeting for approval. Finally, it is passed by the majority votes of the Parishad. The total policy-making process of RCC may be depicted by the following figure.

The above discussion portrays the formal decision-making process of RCC. But, in practice, the whole decision-making process is dominated by the Mayor. The Mayor’s preferences are usually approved at the Corporation Parishad meeting. However, the Standing Committees are not effective[x] in the true sense. Even the participation of women ward commissioners in the policy-making process is minimal. In response to a question, ‘How do you participate in policy making process?’ three women ward commissioners expressed their views in the following way:

We are not given the membership in the standing committees as equal to the general (male) ward commissioners. If we are made members of various standing committees, our proposals and recommendations are always ignored or overruled. Actually, the Corporation Parishad is dominated by the Mayor and some ward commissioners who are close to him”.

Another women commissioner expressed that:

In the last one and half year, none of her projects has been accepted by the Corporation Parishad. We are very much neglected by the ward commissioners and the Mayor. We are like dolls. We do not have any value to them. I am really doubtful whether they even consider us as commissioners.

In the present context, in RCC, most of the ward commissioners have to support the Mayor, even though not all of them belong to the Awami League. The story was similar during the previous government; when RCC was dominated by BNP mayor and its party men. Having the majority of ward commissioners in his favour, the Mayor takes decisions on his own accord. In the case of decisions regarding the departmental project distribution, all the departments of RCC do not get an equal proportion. Those departmental heads that are close to the Mayor and maintain good relations with some of the influential ward commissioners usually get more projects than others[xi]. Although it is claimed that decision-making in RCC is based purely on democratic principles, but in actual practice, the whole process is dominated by the Mayor and his associates. This type of situation is termed as patrimonialism[xii] which is characterized by the rule of preference of one or several actors rather than formal decision-making procedures. It is a one-man show where the Mayor is the decisive factor in most of the cases. Even if the mayor is not involved directly with any decision-making process, his consent is crucial for the positive outcome of a decision. Even what issues will enter the agenda require the blessing of the mayor.

Given the above scenario, a question may now be raised: Why is the Mayor is so powerful in the process of policy formulation of RCC? The possible explanation to the Mayor exercising such power lies in the fact that he (the Mayor) has political affiliation with the party in power. Previously, the mayor belonged to BNP and the present mayor to AL which is now the party in power. Moreover, the Mayor has a powerful position in the party. These factors are crucial for getting support from ward commissioners who are affiliated with AL politics.[xiii]

An important issue that needs clarification is as to why the Mayor receives wholehearted support from wards commissioners. One of the most important explanations might be the existence of patron-client relationship in RCC. Patron-clientelism, a feature of peasant or pre-capitalist society also characterizes developing societies like Bangladesh, has been widely used to understand Third World politics. Patron-clientelism has at least three fundamental characteristics. First, it is a relationship between two individuals or groups, one of which has more power or status, wealth and influence than the other (patron has more power and clients less). Second, the formation and continuation of relationship is based on quid pro quo, i.e. give and take. Third, the relationships are personalized in the form of diffuse brotherhood or any such imagined and cultivated relationship (Islam, 2002). What is also worth emphasizing is that the ruling party has more power to nurture patronage and, hence, can pursue a strategy of favor and reward to reinforce its position.

In Bangladesh, the structure of patron-clientelism takes several forms. In horizontal patron-clientelism, the political party, particularly the party in power, creates loyalties and allegiances and colludes with key actors in the State, the Para-State, and other organizations in society. Often referred to as machine politics, it manifests a personalized relationship cemented through extra-organizational rewards. Appointments, promotions and transfers in the civil service are often influenced by the political identities of the actors rather than their performance. Many key posts of the nation are filled through political appointments, without maintaining proper performance or achievement criteria. Moreover, the party forges strong relationships with trade unions of all sorts, such as student bodies, cultural organizations and institutions of mass media. In vertical clientelism, by comparison, the party spreads downwards in a chain of neta-karmi (leader-follower)[xiv] relationships based on kinship and personalized ties. The karmi (follower) must serve the party as envisaged by the leader, suffer for the party, and even sacrifice his or her life for it. In return the leader will protect the karmis from harm, support them in distress and provide them political links to votes through intermediaries (Islam, 2002). In such a situation, the Mayor being a leader of the party in power receives whole hearted support from the ward commissioners who are the followers. As the majority of the wards commissioners, who are the supporters, are now members of the ruling party and followers of the Mayor, he (the Mayor) makes the policy according to his desire.

5.1. Informal linkages and mayoral position

In a strong patron-client relationship, the source of all major decisions is the patron and all activities revolve around him. The position of the mayor is a formal political position, however, in the case of Bangladesh; these types of political positions are performed and exercised according to the preferences of the leader, in this case the Mayor. The nomination for mayoral position in all big cities is usually offered to party stalwarts with substantial influence over local party politics. Once elected (mayoral election is usually fiercely fought with top party leaders campaigning for their candidates), the mayor becomes the centre of authority in the corporation. Also the party in power desires strong city mayors and only those who draw substantial support from party loyalists as well as strong linkages are given nominations to contest the election. As such, once in power, he has limited or no accountability to the council or to any other authority.

Being an influential member of the party in power, his rule is hardly challenged even by the government. The present mayor of RCC is the head of the district Awami League, besides being the son of one of the stalwarts of the party. He has direct linkage and access to the seat of power of the party and, therefore, enjoys substantial power and dominates policy decisions. This gives him ample opportunity to dispense favor and reward persons of his liking. This give-and-take exchange consolidates his power and is crucial for continued support from party loyalists and leaders.

6. Conclusion

The above discussions substantiate that policy sub-system of urban governance in Bangladesh consists of interaction mainly between two actors. State in the form of government exerts indirect influence on the policy-making process of RCC, as it depends on the central government for financial assistance. On the contrary, Corporation Parishad dominates the whole policy- making process, as every matter related to the development of RCC need to be approved by the Corporation Parishad. The Society in the form of civil society organizations does not have any influence on the RCC policy-making process as there is no formal mechanism to include them.

Although the policy of RCC is scheduled to be formulated in the Corporation Parishad in a democratic way, in actual practice the total process is dominated by the Mayor and his associates. As the Mayor is occupying several positions of power, people around him including ward commissioners, support him in formulating and implementing policies. This reflects more of a patron- client relationship where all ward commissioners support their leader with the expectation that the Mayor may favor them or look after them whenever they are in trouble. This give-and-take relationship reflects the Mayor's personal preferences and usually neglects formal decision-making mechanism. Having the wholehearted support of the ward commissioners, the Mayor is making the policy of RCC according to his own accord.


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End Notes

[i] Rajshahi is one of sixth divisional cities in Bangladesh. Other divisional cities include Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Syllhet and Barisal.

[ii] The Pourashavas has been classified in three categories depending on the extent of their annual income.

[iii] 11 standing committees include (i) Finance and Establishment (ii) Education (iii) Health, Family Planning and Sanitation (iv) Town Planning and Improvement (v) Audits and Accounts (vi) Works and Buildings (vii) Water (viii) Electricy (ix) Social Welfare and Community Centers (x) Transportation and (xi) Women and Children.

[iv] Corporation Parishad is the highest decision making body of RCC.

[v] In Bangladesh, the ruling party distributes responsibility of strengthening its political base in the local level and to expedite development program to one minister in charge of one or two districts. These ministers are often called as minister in charge of the district from the partisan perspective. They bear this responsibility along with their official portfolio for the betterment of the political party whom he was nominated for. If, there is no minister hailing from a particular district, in that case, the minister in charge from the closest district is given responsibility of that district.

[vi] If the Mayor belongs to the ruling party, central government insists on initiating projects in those sectors where government puts more emphasis. The Mayor then tries to act as per the preferences and directions of the central government.

[vii] In the West, civil society organizations are parts of the policy making and there are detailed formal mechanisms of their inclusion and participation. For example, in environmental related issues, environmental organizations are consulted and included in the policy making process. This is also referred to as “integrated participation” (Olsen, 1985).

[viii] The figure is drawn by the author based on Howlett and Ramesh, (1995).

[ix] Financial year starts from 1st of July to the end of June of every year.

[x] Standing Committees do not function as per law. Sometimes, the Standing Committees do not even hold its monthly meeting.

[xi] Those ward commissioners have a leadership position in the political party and who have close relationship with the Mayor are the most influential than others.

[xii] Weber (1947) coined the phrase patrimonialism to describe situations where the administrative jurisdiction over certain domains, are given wide leeway regarding how to act. These measures are mostly informal or off the record. Patrimonial rule has similarities to the feudal system of lord and vassal. Weber said the difference is that the feudal relationship is more ritualized and regularized, and thus more stable, than the ad hoc arrangements of patrimonialism. Patrimonial administration is closely associated with clientelistic politics. Under a pure patrimonial system, an office is treated as a type of income-generating property and the sovereign can reclaim this property at will. There is hardly any distinction between official and personal preferences and hence public properties are frequently abused for personal use. Authority becomes informal and formal positions are used to dispense favor and reward to one’s clients. Administrative responsibilities are carried out irrespective of any discipline and standard operating procedures but rather resemble arbitrary decisions of the person with formal position and power (Brinkerhoff and Goldsmith, 2002).

[xiii] It is important to mention here is that Rajshahi has traditionally been the stronghold of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and dominated general elections there. However, in the general election of 2008, the scenario changed completely as the ruling party in power, the Awami League bagged all the six parliamentary seats. However, again in the municipal elections in the Rajshahi and Rangpur (Northern Region) Divisions held in 2011, the BNP backed candidates had a big edge over Awami League backed candidates in winning mayoral positions.

[xiv] Neta-karmi is a Bengali term. Neta means leader and Karmi means follower. The basis of the politics of Bangladesh is the neta-karmi relationship.