Revitalizing the local governments to check COVID-19
Dealing COVID-19 in our country is based on policy responses from the federal and provincial governments as local government are dysfunctional. We are adamant to get out of the situation without the involvement ofmunicipalities or local governments. In other parts of world, devolution of power has helped and playedan important role in supporting people, nonprofits, and businesses through the pandemic.
Local governance is an integral pillar for service delivery, state and community representation and responsiveness. It provides effective control and outreach at the tehsil and village level. For instance, considering the best practices adopted by the countries who successfully defeated the pandemic, Germany and South Korea stand out. Germany has been able to ramp up its testing services and lower the mortality rate due to the devolution of its health policy, which is managed and executed by 400 health offices rather than a centralized authority. This has allowed them to have different models for testing, set-up by different offices according to their need and resources. Similarly, South Korea used its devolved system in coordination with the central government to align, adapt and localize its response strategy. This creates an efficient and swift response mechanism.
Local governments may help to extend financial relief measures and support in the provision of essential services directed to people in the neighborhoods.Municipalities can play a part to regulate and keep markets open for trade with a view to ensure food security and strengthening the resiliency and sustainability of regional supply chains, especially for food, commodities, medicines, medical and essential supplies.
Local authorities are always in better position in implementing appropriate measures to boost confidence and improve stability of the local economy, with special attention to small and medium businesses and vulnerable groups and, by cooperation, can ensure social safety net for people and continue efforts to design and implement social protection systems.
Regardless of the outcome of COVID-19, municipalities have to continue to meet their core responsibilities as delegated by the provinces to facilitate citizens. They have to ensure supply of essential services that help to keep people healthy, safe, and happy, including water and wastewater treatment, waste collectionand recreation opportunities, to name just a few, and they are vital even in this pandemic.
It is important that the provision of services must be carried out without any disruption. These may include the cleaning of streets, installation of dis-infectant gates at the entry points of streets and markets, enforcement of public health restrictions and repurposing green spaces etc. Since many libraries, schools and public spaces are closed, the low-income residents do not have access to the internet.
Municipalities are assigned the duty to encourage social distancing for adults and keep up with schoolwork/studies for youngsters, the municipalities must work with internet providers to arrange free Wi-Fi hotspots especially in low income neighborhoods, so people can access it from home if they need it.
An effective awareness campaign designed with local requirements and consistent reliable messaging are needed for communities on social distancing, hygiene and the virus symptoms. The print, electronic and digital media is playing its role to influence communities however, it has limited accessibility and most importantly lack the particular local guidance.
Municipalities have to work for increasing the accessible outdoor public spaces, because, the sidewalks are usually narrow to allow a proper physical distancing. Administration may cordon off streets or parts of streets to allow for people to safely spend time outside especially for female residents as majority of people are living in small houses. Furthermore, there must be many people and businesses who need help will not know where to run for that help, it is important to establish resources that those in need can consult to find the help they need. The absence of local governments has not only created a void in local political representation but also hampered the efficient service delivery. Local governments by design enjoy tremendous access to grassroots communities and can play an instrumental role in the case of emergencies like covid-19. The outbreak of covid-19 has halted the local economy. A centralized approach is likely to be insufficient for the management and response of this pandemic. The best course of action in a post-covid-19 world will be for provinces to restore the local bodies.