A Review Of Public Finance At District Level

Abstract

Public finance deals with the financial management of public entities. This paper provides an overview of the financial affairs of local government of district Multan and identifies issues faced by the systems to deliver efficiently and effectively. It also highlights areas or improvement and opportunities to fund these activities. The district government heavily relies on the provincial grants and has very limited self generated revenue. Although it is responsible to manage various institutions of social services and carry out developmental activities in the district, its reliance on provincial grants make its effort less effective. TMA on the other hand have significant revenue generation and use this to their advantage and work with autonomy. However they still rely on provincial grants for any developmental activities. The stale business process and hurdles in the legal framework also contribute significantly towards the in efficiency of the systems. There are solutions that can help turn around the situation but it needs a sincere effort on part the provincial and local government. Automation and legal reforms could cover a lot of issues. They would not only increase efficiency but would help curtail corruption at various levels. However strong political could change the scene altogether. A comprehensive process was adopted in collecting secondary data through official documents, template and meetings with officials. District Multan was chosen due to its importance specially in the current political setup and based on convenience.

Introduction

Despite some modest achievements, the economic and social progress in Pakistan has been far from satisfactory during the last more than five decades of independence. Average annual growth rate of 6.8, 4.8, 6.5 and 4.6% (Government of Pakistan, 2003) respectively in the decades of 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s is not comparable with the rapid economic progress made by South Korea, Malaysia, China and many other countries which were initially at nearly the same level of economic development (or even below) as that of Pakistan. The performance on social indicators has been gloomier. Despite average figures for economic growth, many countries like Vietnam and Cuba have been able to eradicate illiteracy and have achieved health statistics comparable with developed countries (Zaidi, 2000). Pakistan still ranks at the tail end of social development ranking.

Pakistan is also a signatory to the Millennium Declaration, a landmark event showing commitment of political, corporate and civil society leadership to eliminate extreme hunger and poverty and to improve education, health, gender and environment situation through global partnerships for development. A study of the progress achieved on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) shows that the performance of Pakistan has not been noteworthy in the decade of 90s. There has been a gradual convergence of opinion amongst all stakeholders – government, civil society as well as international development partners – that the failure in social sectors is a direct outcome of the crisis of governance and macro economic imbalances. Further, there is a broad consensus that governance cannot be improved without a meaningful devolution of authority to functional tiers and without ensuring people’s participation in decision making processes at all levels.

This stakeholder consensus provided the necessary impetus for the present government to introduce its devolution reforms conceived in 2000 and launched simultaneously in all provinces of Pakistan through introduction of Local Government Ordinances in 2001.

Until the promulgation of Local Government Ordinances, the elected local government tiers had a precarious existence depending upon the will of the provincial governments. Many times these would be dissolved and un-elected administrators appointed. Working under the ambit of Local government Ordinances of 1979, there were urban and rural local councils. While urban local councils consisted of Metropolitan/Municipal Corporations and Municipal/Town committees, the rural councils were called District Councils and Union Councils. Traditionally the local councils in Pakistan have performed municipal functions like water supply, sanitation, solid waste management, fire fighting, maintenance of slaughter houses, promotion of cattle markets, fairs and exhibitions and street lighting. They also had varying roles in primary and preventive health care, maternal and child health, promotion of literacy and rural infrastructure development.

Devolution reforms in Pakistan, introduced by the promulgation of Local Government Ordinances of 2001 have provided a 3-tier local government system consisting of District Government (DG), Tehsil/Town Municipal Administration (TMA) and Union Administrations (UA). Working under the direction and control of elected councils and Nazims, the present local government system attempts to create institutions and mechanisms for public participation in design, management, monitoring and control of social service delivery. Many of the functions previously performed by the local offices of provincial government departments now clearly fall within the domain of DGs. These reforms are aimed to increase local governments’ responsibility for efficient and effective social and municipal services delivery. Municipal functions with a wider scope are being carried out by Town Municipal Administrations and City District Governments (established initially in provincial headquarters but subsequently in selected big cities as well).

Access to adequate resources for the local governments is now considered essential. Additional fiscal space is required for enhanced allocations for the social sector as well as infrastructure development. These resources are also required to meet the social deficits that have accumulated over the past due to inadequate funding coupled with low utilisation in social sectors. Devolution reforms, as originally conceived and articulated, envisaged large scale fiscal decentralisation to follow the administrative and political decentralisation. While a fiscal relationship has been forged between the province and the districts, an extensive reorganisation of resources has not taken place and the vertical financial imbalance stays in place with the major financial collections being made at the federal (and to a lesser extent at the provincial) level. On the other hand, the service provision has fallen at the DG level where the tax base and collection potential is the lowest.

Courtesy: Decentralization Support Program, Role Book: 4-day workshop for elected local leadershipResultantly, the biggest challenge facing the local councils in Pakistan (which are more empowered today and have a wider scope of functions than ever) is to ensure consistent, reliable and fool proof mechanisms of transfers from provincial governments and to expand ‘own source revenues’ in order to provide efficient and effective service delivery as envisaged in devolution reforms.

Public Finance is that part of finance which hovers around the central question of allocation of resources subjected to the budget constraint of the government or public entities. It is that branch of economics which identifies and appraises the means and effects of the policies of the government. Public sector finance tries to examine the effects and consequences of different types of taxation and expenditures on the economic agents (individuals, institutions, organizations, etc.) of the society and ultimately on the entire economy. Public finance also analyzes the effectiveness of the policies aimed at certain objectives and consequently to the development of procedures and techniques for increasing the effectiveness of the policy.

Literature Review

Much of the functional autonomy of the local governments depends upon their ability to raise the required resources from their own sources and to get the balance from the provincial/federal government through consistent and assured mechanisms. This requires not only devising institutional mechanisms for formula and criteria based fiscal transfers but also exploring revenue potentials of local own source revenues. These own source revenues can be in the form of taxes and fees for services provided. It is quite surprising that despite the significance of this, very few local studies have been carried out to examine the resource potential of the local bodies in Pakistan.

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) of Pakistan, formulated after considerable debate and input from all major stakeholders, admits that the local governments depend primarily upon fiscal transfers from provincial governments and recognises the need for local revenue mobilisation as an important activity for the sustainability of local government system.

Factors steeped in political economy and elite structures have influenced local revenue generation decisions. Howe and Reeb (1997) conducting a survey of the local tax system in USA since the colonial times have determined that economic and political considerations have influenced the tax systems.

Bird (2000) gives the desirable characteristics of a local tax. First, the tax base should be relatively immobile so that local governments can vary the rates without losing a significant portion of the base. Second, the tax yield should be adequate to meet the local needs, increase overtime as expenditure increases, and be relatively stable and predictable. Third, the tax should be one that is not easy to export to non residents. Fourth, the tax base should be visible to ensure accountability. Fifth, the tax payers should perceive the tax to be reasonably fair. Sixth, the tax should be reasonably easy to administer.

According to Bird (1999), ‘international experience tells that the most responsible and accountable local governments are those that raise their own revenues and set their own tax rates’. Meaningful local autonomy and accountability can only take place if the local governments are able to set their own tax rates. In Pakistan, on the other hand, provincial government has the power to vet the tax proposal and no tax can be levied by a local council without publication in official gazette.

Kitchen and Slack (2003) after a comprehensive analysis of local taxes in developed world, including Canada, are of the view that in order to meet the growing needs of municipalities, it is mandatory that new resources in addition to the traditional property tax and user fees must be explored.

There is little autonomy in preparing district development and non development budgets because of inability to convey the quantum of provincial transfers and vertical programmes. There is more ‘budgetary certainty’ in TMAs because of increased reliance on OZT replacement tax and own source revenues. Formula based transfers to districts through Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) awards have several weaknesses. District governments have weak tax base in terms of buoyancy and potency of taxes assigned. Urban Immovable Property Tax (UIPT) assigned to TMAs is a buoyant tax but there are administrative confusions.

According to Shah et al. (1996) and World Bank (2000) the existing provincial taxes and user charges are inefficient and inequitable and are incapable of meeting significant share of provincial expenditures. Frequently changing and low yield tax instruments with poor tax records create incentives for tax evasion. Considering that agriculture contributes approximately 25% of the GDP in Pakistan, it is estimated that a properly enforced Agricultural Income Tax (AIT) could generate over Rs. 500 million in NWFP only. Presently due to collusion between revenue officials and landowners, lack of understanding, improper assessment and poor collection by the tax collectors, very little of the potential is realised.

Bahl (2004) states that in the contemporary world nearly 80 countries are implementing fiscal decentralisation policies. Local government should have the power to define revenue bases, set tax rates and raise taxes. A good tax system should be administratively feasible, revenue burden should correspond to the general condition of local economy, revenue yield should be stable and it should be adequate both for payer and local government.

A research study carried out by Provincial Program Support Office, DSP, Punjab ‘Tax and Non Tax Receipt Database Development – TMA Khanewal’ in 2005 indicates that there is substantial potential of increase in revenues without enhancing the rates. It has been observed that service delivery potential of the TMA is weak because of its inability to meet all the expenditures. The record of TMA is old; there is no practice of periodic update; and monitoring system is weak. The study also noted that revenue generation can improve dramatically by improving record keeping through maintenance of disaggregated information of taxes and tax payers in all details by the use of information technology. The study recommended computerisation of tax records, capacity building of tax/revenue staff, and increase in transparency of tax records, wider dissemination of information about tax policies, rates and procedures through establishment of people friendly frameworks.

Research Methodology

The paper examines the current financial situation of district Multan and identifies areas of potential improvement. It also recommends areas that need restructuring and legal reforms to bring about the change that would not only improve systems but would make it robust and ready for future economic growth of the district, keeping in mind the potential the district.

Mixed methodology including quantitative and qualitative tools was employed for data collection and analysis. Broadly speaking, it had the following three components.

Component 1: The first component involved conducting a comprehensive literature review to see the national, regional and international trends in local resource mobilisation and issues faced by the system. The range of sources accessed and reports/publications examined is broad and includes similar studies conducted for other districts in Pakistan (e.g. Khanewal) and elsewhere. Unfortunately, to the extent of Pakistan, the Khanewal study is so far the only study available as a reference for examination of local resource enhancement in the local government. Greater reliance, therefore, had to be placed on studies conducted in other countries. Nevertheless, the literature review helped in identifying the issues involved in local taxation (levy, assessment and collection) and an examination thereof in a comparative perspective.

The success of local governments to raise resources locally is largely contingent on framing appropriate laws and rules in consonance with the ground realities. Therefore, an important part of the literature review exercise was to identify relevant laws, rules, regulations, notifications and circulars that in some distinct manner impinge upon the resource mobilisation at district/tehsil level.

Component 2: Along with the literature review an exercise was also undertaken to collect data for the District Government (DG) Multan and each of the six Tehsil Municipal Administrations included in the two districts. A comprehensive template was developed to standardise data collected from various councils. It lists all major and minor sources of revenue for a local council; the legal framework (law/rule/regulation) authorising its levy; business process for assessment and collection; the amount budgeted against each tax/levy/fee/cess etc for each of the last four fiscal years 2007-10; budgetary revisions (if any) and collections actually realised.

The budget documents for the last four years were used as the starting point and the amount budgeted for each source was picked from the budget documents.

Component 3 A detailed analysis of receipts, expenditure, development initiatives, review of business process and relevant legal provision and their issues was carried out.

Component 4: Then a series of individual interviews were held. This included meeting the Tehsil Municipal Officers, Executive District Officers (Revenue, Finance and Planning, Municipal Services), various District Officers, Excise and taxation officials, Multan Development Authority and Water and Sanitation Agency officials The suggestions and recommendations on the perspectives emanating from these interviews.

Data Analysis and interpretation

Overview of Public Finance (district government budget)

Rs. in millions

Description

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Expenditure

Actual

Actual

RE

Non-development

2,762.80

3,912.51

4,066.98

Development

1,462.49

1,539.14

882.19

Development – tied grant

300.12

512.19

965.16

Total

4,525.41

5,963.84

5,914.34

Source of revenue

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Opening balance

386.16

995.15

1,086.13

Provincial grants

3,780.30

3,853.29

5,172.88

Own Source revenue

201.07

149.37

140.13

Tied grants (development and non-development)

475.84

801.40

1,017.88

Total

4,853.37

5,726.64

7,417.02

Revenue of the district is of two types i.e. Own source revenue and provincial transfers. In district Multan there is a heavy reliance on funding from provincial government since district OSR is almost negligible. Efforts are needed to change the scenario and move the district towards sustainability A sharp rise of 37% in provincial grants could be noticed in the FY 2008-09 over FY 2007-08 endorsing district’s dependence on these transfers. The provincial grants are transferred as per the PFC criteria which will be discussed in depth later in the chapter. Tied grants being the second highest source has been transferred for development and non development expenses of the district government. For the FY 2008-09 the tied grants are Rs. 1,018m which constitute 13.7% of the total sources. These grants are for specific expenditure and are not in district’s control. The own source revenue (OSR) of the district govt. forms a very insignificant amount (2%, 2008-09), rendering the district to rely heavily on provincial transfers. The OSR of the district has been on a decreasing trend compared to overall resource requirement. This is a major cause of concern as this not only increases dependence on provincial transfer but it also affects the autonomy of the district to make decisions. A sincere effort to revamp the taxes and their collection mechanism is required with the focus on generating more resource. In budget for FY 2009-10 there is an increase in OSR of 40% which includes estimation of arrears that are more than 3 years old. These balances are very old and have been appearing in budget estimates for over more than 3 years. However the increase is still insignificant compare to the requirement of the district. A detailed analysis of item by item sources of income was done. Issues relating to a few significant items will be highlighted in the section of recommendations.

Expenditures are categorized in to two broad categories i.e. Development and Non development. The ratio of development vs. non development expenditure has changed over the years with a downward trend in development expenditure. This trend should be a cause of concern as the development projects loose priority to make way for funding ongoing activities In 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 the ratio of non - developmental expenses vs. development expenses is 61% to 39%, 66% to 34% and 69% to 31% respectively. This shows the declining trend of developmental budget. The year 2008-09 saw a drop in the allocation for developmental activities out of district government resources from Rs. 1,538 m in FY 2007-08 to Rs. 1,082 m in FY 2008-09. This huge reduction was somewhat compensated through increase in development expenditure through tied grants which rose from Rs. 512m in FY 2007-08 to Rs. 965m in FY 2008-09. In FY 2008-09 the budget estimate for development activities other than CCB and tied grants stood at Rs. 558 m for ongoing activities and Rs. 742 m for new activities. The revised estimate for same expenditure came out to be Rs. 656m. Which means that not only new activities were not initiated nor ongoing expenditure targets were met. The major reasons identified during discussion is the change in political setup in the province resulting in delay tactics for funds transfer.

The development budget for the district government consists of funds allocated towards Annual development program, Citizen Community board and Tied grants (provided by provincial government against specific development projects).

In the FY 2009-10 the total budget for development stands at Rs. 2,749 m which is 38% of the total budget for this year. The total allocation towards ADP is Rs. 1,492 m which is 54% of the total development budget. This ADP has Rs. 966m as ongoing projects that have started in previous years. This is a large allocation and has taken up approximately 35% of the share from development budget. The new projects identified for the year are 19% of the total development budget. The ADP (ongoing and new) are mainly focused on following sectors

Annual development program

2009-10

%

Sectors

Rs. in millions

 

Education

214.342

14%

Health

159.877

12%

Dist. Govt. facilities

52.166

3%

Solid waste management

26.188

2%

Sports

47.14

3%

General bus stand

64.259

4%

Livestock and Fisheries

24.027

2%

Firms to market roads

223.931

15%

Roads, Building and Roundabouts

348.837

23%

Others

332.034

22%

Total

1492.801

The above table reflects district government’s priorities for sector development. The social services such as health and education take up 26% of the share whereas the roads network takes up 38% of the allocation.

Overview of Public Finance (All 6 TMAs)

Rs. in millions

Description

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Expenditure

Non-development

251

247

326

Development

470

449

584

Total

721

697

910

Source of revenue

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Provincial grant

246

303

290

Own Source revenue

293

339

414

Total

540

642

704

There are 6 TMAs in the district and all of them have a reasonable amount of OSR to help them fund their activities. However there is still potential to increase their revenue specially taxes that form a major component of their OSR. Receipts of TMA consist of provincial transfer and OSR. In TMAs OSR contributes significantly. The ratio of contribution of OSR has in fact increased in FY 2008-09. This is a positive sign as far the TMAs ability to make decisions is involved. However there is still room for increase in revenue. The major source being taxes should be tapped into for more efficiency. It is worth noting, looking at the combined figures for all 6 TMAs, that the OSR in all the 3 FY under discussion has been sufficient to fund the non development activities even leaving a surplus to be spent on development activities.

The development vs. non development expenses are more or less consistent at a ratio of 64:36 over the last 3 years. The above table shows the break up of development expenditure for the TMA. The allocation towards development expenditure is 64% of the total outlay. It has remained at this level over last 3 years. The allocation in FY 2008-09, which comprises of the annual development projects, CCB contribution and payment against liabilities amounts to Rs. 255m, Rs. 262m and Rs. 66 m, respectively. Payments against these liabilities were frozen by the government of Punjab and have asked the TMAs to present these liabilities as new projects under the ADP. Optimistic planning and change in political setup at the provincial level resulted in huge payment liabilities being carried forward to the next year.

PFC award – This is another source of income for the DG and TMAs. The criteria for distributing the PFC grant is specified by the Punjab Government and takes into consideration the population and socio economic indicator of the district (GOP, 2009-10)

The district government and the TMAs have received funds at around 5% level from the provincial allocation over last 4 years. If we take a simple benchmark of population to compare the level of funding, Multan district has 4.26% population of Punjab (GOP, Punjab Development Statistics, 2009). This reflects that district Multan has been receiving fair share of the pie.

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

Resources transfer by Province to

DG

90,794

96,952

99,413

108,822

TMA

13,541

14,431

15,320

15,209

Total

104,335

111,383

114,733

124,031

Allocation to DG and TMAs of Multan

4,512.56

4,885.02

6,480.43

6,108.37

% share

4.325%

4.386%

5.648%

4.925%

Population

Punjab

87,548

89,036

90,550

92,089

Multan

3,727

3,792

3,858

3,925

% population

4.26%

4.26%

4.26%

4.26%

Recommendations

Business process and legal reforms

In this section we will focus our discussion on business process and relevant legal reforms to help identify areas of improvement.

Section 116 of PLGO 2001 empowers the council to impose, increase, reduce, abolish, suspend and/or exempt any tax mentioned in the second schedule there in. However the section also mentioned that any amendment to taxes is vetted by the provincial government. This process hampers the local governments’ autonomy to set their own tax rates as the provincial government plays a controlling role. If full autonomy to fix rates etc. is not to be devolved, then the issue can be resolved by providing band widths within which the DGs and the TMAs would be free to act.

To address the issue of stale process it is recommend that automation of business process, a comprehensive revenues base assessment and capacity building of staff should take place.

The automation of business processes would result in better accounting, efficiency in tax collection mechanism hence increasing revenue, provide up to date databases, availability of information to be used by various department and timely reporting.

It has been assessed that without increasing the rates of present taxes the yield can improve dramatically by maintaining records/registers properly, regular survey and incorporation of changes in tax records, improved monitoring and inclusion of systems of rewards and punishments for tax collecting machinery.

Capacity and training of staff are critical to success of any initiative for enhancement of own source revenues. Local government officials dealing with these issues (in many cases) do not have up to date information about government laws and rules. Training with respect to financial management and procurement plus IT is also critical for bringing positive change.

Low yielding taxes/fees are an administrative hassle for the collecting authority and they should be done away with or their rates be revised upwards to increase revenue.

Dissemination of information about process, assessments, valuation table, and fees would help curtail corruption. One of the major reason people fall in the trap of providing kick backs is lack of information. This information could be made available through IEC material, notices in newspapers, display through posters in relevant offices and media awareness campaign.

The business process of all OSR items such as taxes, rents and fees and user charge in the DGs and TMAs have mostly been defined a long time ago and the current LG setup has inherited them. There has not been any significant investment in review and reform of business processes of the taxes. Our research has shown that many improvements in the system can result from identification and removal of various loopholes and weaknesses in the processes. We recommend a comprehensive effort to be made to overhaul these processes which would result in collection efficiencies and significant improvement in tax payer facilitation.

A quality control mechanism should be introduced to check functioning of various departments in the district.

Conclusion

This study briefly discusses the financial position of District Multan. It also carries out the financial analysis of the current situation and identifies issues faced by the local government. The major issues highlighted are capacity of the local government and the will to address issues.

Multan being the 5th largest city of Pakistan has the potential to grow economically. It is well geographically well positioned since it lies in the middle of the trade route connecting south with north. A major initiative to revamp the systems would result in positive outcome for the people of the district. This paper also recommends few areas of improvement. A much larger effort needs to go into this. Recommendations such as legal reforms, revamping business process, trainings and automation needs to be implemented together to bring quick change. However this whole effort needs to be financed. The financing could take place with one or all of the following options;

Lists of 11 properties were identified on a pilot basis. These properties/facilities are all in prime locations inside the city and are owned by the DG. We propose to sell of these properties and either abolished these facilities or relocate them to a more economical location. Through this proposal we would be able to raise Rs. 4,682 m. This in only the tip of iceberg, a more comprehensive study would reveal a lot more properties.

Another area of resource generation is the property given on rent. The DG and TMA have many shops, stores and buildings that have been rented out. One of the ways forward could be to revise the rents and bring them at market level. Another option is to sell out these properties on market value and receive a good cash inflow that could be used for major initiatives.

There are many government educational institutions with city limits many of them being on prime locations. A designated education city should be developed and all these institution should be shifted. A cost benefit analysis should be carried out to assess the potential of this option.

Municipal bond is a bond issued by a city or other local government, or their agencies. Municipal bonds may be general obligations of the issuer or secured by specified revenues. Interest income is received by holders of municipal bonds. Municipal securities consist of both short-term issues (often called notes, which typically mature in one year or less) and long-term issues (commonly known as bonds, which mature in more than one year). Short-term notes are used by an issuer to raise money for a variety of reasons: in anticipation of future revenues such as taxes, state or federal aid payments, and future bond issuances; to cover irregular cash flows; meet unanticipated deficits; and raise immediate capital for projects until long-term financing can be arranged. Long term bonds are usually sold to finance capital projects over the longer term. This could be another potential resource that could be launched. Pakistan’s bond market is far behind the other emerging market in the region (Arif, 2006). Municipal finance in Pakistan, like many other developing countries, needs to be reengineered. While the smaller districts may not have a sufficient tax base, the larger municipalities are in a position to generate funds from pricing the services they deliver and by generating local revenue from direct taxation. The new devolution plan in Pakistan pre-empts local governments from raising funds in the capital markets. Municipal bonds are unheard of in Pakistan. Large municipalities, which have high-value assets, should be permitted to float bonds in open markets to finance development. The Capital Development Authority has recently announced an EOI calling for advisory services for launching of municipal bonds, results of which are to be seen. This could prove to be major source of fund for the local government and may provide an opportunity to fast track development efforts. The SBP has recently launched an Electronic Bond Trading Platform which would help develop bond markets by providing access to local and international investors. Amendment in section 120 of the PLGO 2001 would be required as a first step towards this process which bars the local governments to incur any debt.

Citizen Community Board, an initiative to fuel development with focus on people’s needs and promoting public private partnership, lost its charm over the period of time. Initiatives sought to take place did not take place, results sought to be achieved were not achieved. The 25% equivalent of DG’s ADP and TMA’s ADP have been set aside over years and utilization has been very low. We propose that this fund be utilized for other development initiatives since the concept of CCB, to achieve its goals, would take a long time, especially due to capacity constraints with the government setup. The amount of funds available are

District Government Rs 558 million

TMA Rs. 324 million

Total Rs. 882 million