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World Conference of Local Authorities
FUTURE OF THE CITY
Mr. Luther Gulick, Chairman of the New York Institute of Public Administration, and Sir Harold Banwell, who retired last year as the Secretary-General of the Association of Municipal Corporations, Great Britain, were keynote speakers at the 16th International Congress of Local Authorities which was held in Brussels, Belgium, in June. The theme of the Congress was “Local Government in the 20th Century.”
Mr. Gulick in his paper on the “Future of the City”, set the scene by projecting a doubling of the world’s population by the year 2,000 and by describing the relevant technical improvements which might be expected by that time. Rocketry and vertical take-off would revolutionise international and inter-city transport; it would breed impatience with street congestion, enforce traffic segregation and lead to the building of double or triple-decked streets.
cities” would then be able to act as an efficient framework for the new society which would contain ever-increasing proportion of skilled and professional workers and machine minders and a decreasing number of unskilled.
There would be more free time and double jobs and more time for recreation, education and travel. There would also be more old people and greater organised attention to activities for growing youth.
These factors would create needs which would have to be satisfied through organisations of increasing power and centralisation: as a result the centralisation of governments might be expected to continue encouraged by political considerations, a shortage of skilled administrators and capital and the need to control economy. The power of central governments had increased and would continue to do so.
In these circumstances it was important for all those concerned with local government to wake up and see what was happening; they must be prepared to sacrifice focal particularism for a species of communal teamwork within the national unit ,but at the same time to demonstrate at all stages the value of decentralisation. It followed from this that they must seek governmental powers and make active use of them specially those connected with the new concepts of planning. Sir Harold Banwell agreed with the Italians that municipal self-sufficiency was outdated but drew attention to the Indian pronouncement that the essence of local government was “to enable people to directly participate in the administration of the government”. These statements being both true it was important to determine the size of authority capable of both efficiency and popular participation. He doubted if anyone knew what was meant by the words “big” and “small” in this context and proposed that the international union of local authorities should set up a working party to investigate this whole question whose very nature
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changed every few years as technology and rising populations made the accepted answers out of date.
Local Government In Developing Countries
In the discussion group on “Local Government in Developing Countries”, the opening paper was read by Prof. Menon, Director of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. From the discussions and papers it appeared that in the new countries central control was inevitable and that consequently the major problem was to persuade governments into devolution. This meant that local authorities had to produce evidence of competence but this was precisely where difficulties began; the new countries had inherited a structure from the former imperial power which was not always suitable for local self-government; they were short of trained administrative and technical staff and the elected members often lacked such rudiments of knowledge as were needed to make the councils in which they sat function properly. There was a shortage of funds, difficulties in tax collection, and jobbery.
There was a paper by Professor Carlos Ramos of Phillipines. His argument was : industrial revolutions are happening at different times in different countries but the population explosion is altering the conditions of the later ones so that the lessons which might be learned from previous experience cannot be wholly applied. The fearful sufferings of the early industrialisations must not be repeated yet the underdeveloped countries had somehow to catch up with the developed, without sacrificing their social and cultural heritage. The policy maker's impatience led to centralisation and bureaucracy whilst the experience and ideas of other countries couid not simply be adopted. Foreign financed projects for self government had a habit of dying when the foreign funds dried up. Thus everything was loaded against the development of a true local government, yet self-help was the only hope of the future. There were, however, greater resources of self reliance available than at first seemed apparent. The need for local planning was evident and forced people to think and to act rationally and as local organs of self government became more confident they