Shri Yashwant Sinha, Honourable Minister for Finance,
Shri Ananth Kumar, Honourable Minister for Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation,
Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, Honourable Minister of State for Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation,
Shri K. Kosal Ram, Secretary (Urban Development), Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation,
Shri S.S. Chattopadhyay, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation,
Shri S. Banerjee, Joint Secretary (Urban Development), Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of Local Governments,
Honourable Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with great pleasure that I address the concluding session of the launch of the campaign for good urban governance in India. This event has been a resounding success and I wish to thank all those persons, both behind and in front of the scenes, who have made this event possible. The effort involved in conceptualising and organising such an event is considerable and I can appreciate the sacrifices of time and personal convenience that have been made. In my opening speech I particularly mentioned the staff from the Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation. On this occasion I would like additionally to recognise the staff of HSMI/HUDCO who have done such an excellent job. I would also like to thank the distinguished presenters from The Philippines, from Rio Grande do Sul State in Brazil and last but not least, from Dar es Salaam in my home country of Tanzania. You have all traveled far and your contributions have greatly enriched these proceedings.
I would also like to mention the Minister of Roads and Works from Habitat's home base of Kenya, the Honourable William C. Morogo, who was kind enough to attend this event.
The event has been remarkable on a number of fronts. One of these has been the remarkable unanimity of opinion on the necessity for good urban governance. The Habitat Agenda recognises that the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in cities. As humanity enters the 21st century a consensus is emerging that good governance will make the difference between success and failure. I do not think that I have heard one dissenting voice on this proposition. This represents a sea change in the climate of opinion. Not so long ago to even suggest that urban areas needed a specific focus of attention evoked a hail of protest from within many countries in the developing world. The real solutions to the problems of poverty it was argued were to be found in the rural areas, and anything that detracted from this was to be deplored.
A more balanced approach is now evident. It is acknowledged that poverty is becoming more urbanised and that both urban and rural areas need attention. There is increasing acceptance that rural and urban areas are interdependent and that there is need for balanced development, with human settlements playing their full role in rural growth and poverty reduction through enhanced rural-urban linkages. This is a significant evolution.
The acceptance of the notion of good governance is also remarkable. I have attended many meetings at which the concept has been hotly contested for a variety of reasons. It is now clear from this meeting that stakeholders from across the spectrum, within India at least, have now come to a consensus on what good governance is and that it is desirable to have it. I do not under-estimate the importance of this change of mindset. It is great progress.
One of the reasons I discern for the increased acceptance of good urban governance in India is that there is a growing impatience to see the fruits of the implementation of the 74th amendment. It is realised that although decentralisation is desirable that, on its own, it is not going to deliver the desired benefits. Good urban governance is the necessary additional ingredient necessary to make decentralisation work in India's towns and cities.
More than this, I perceive that there is increasing recognition that good urban governance is an essential adjunct to the process of economic reform that is gathering pace here in India. Economic reform emphasises amongst other things, the creation of opportunities for involvement of the private sector in public service provision and the development of an enabling environment. These ideas are also intrinsic to good urban governance.
But good urban governance adds value to this reform agenda through the productive engagement of civil society and the lower tiers of government, in addition to the private sector, in improving service delivery, promoting poverty reduction and creating a better environment. Good urban governance aims at unleashing the untapped energies of these different stakeholders, through the catalysing force of local government, in tackling the myriad problems besetting urban areas. Most importantly, through the engagement of the poor, we have the possibility of realising the vision of "Cities without Slums", the theme of this year's World Habitat Day.
It is also clear that not only can good urban governance unharness the energies of urban residents and dynamise local government, but it is also essential for efficient use of existing resources and mobilisation of additional resources both locally and internationally. Infrastructure costs will not be recovered unless city residents feel that investments reflect their priorities and therefore their willingness and ability to pay. Investors also know this and are reluctant to step forward until they are confident of public commitment.
It is for these reasons that I suspect that the reform-orientated Minister for Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Ananth Kumar has already swung his weight behind the campaign.
Therefore, good urban governance is part of the process of modernisation and renewal on which India has embarked. But, to sound a note of caution, we must try to ensure that this is not a two-speed process, with the good performers leaving the more disadvantaged ones behind. I have already commented on the need for improved rural-urban linkages to ensure that rural areas benefit from city development and indeed as a mechanism for keeping the rate of urbanisation manageable.
As another example, we have seen from a number of presentations in the Experience Sharing Workshop that some cities in India have led the world in their successful experimentations with e-governance. Yet many local authorities in India have barely moved beyond the manual typewriter.
My point is that there are enormous disparities in India, and that an essential part of any good urban governance strategy must be to ensure the scaling up of the praiseworthy innovations. In line with the good governance leitmotiv of inclusiveness that was endorsed at this launch, cities that are centres of excellence must acknowledge their responsibility to ensure that their knowledge, expertise and experience are passed on and absorbed by their less well-endowed sister cities. City-to-city cooperation has to start in this country. The national government also has a role in ensuring inter-state equity.
Honourable participants, ladies and gentlemen:
This launch is the first step on a long road. You have made an excellent start here. But a successful launch does not constitute a successful campaign. The campaign will be judged by the results it achieves. This in turn depends on your endeavours and your willingness to implement the good urban governance agenda using your own resources and energies. Initially at least, the campaign must be about doing better with the resources that you already have available. But nothing succeeds like success and I am confident that once your cities have demonstrated that they are able to implement the principles of good urban governance other benefits will flow, including those of inward investment.
Habitat will walk with you in this process and support you to the maximum extent of its capability. But other sources of international assistance will also be needed, not least so as to enhance good practices and to enable skills and know-how exchange. Current indications on this front are positive, but these will need to be concretised in the near future. I very much hope that international agencies present at this meeting will increase their support in order to move this process forward. The Commonwealth Local Government Forum has already indicated its willingess to support the campaign.
I have very much enjoyed my first visit to India and have not only appreciated the warmth and generosity of its people, but also been inspired by the imagination and commitment of many of those I have met. All seem to be determined to succeed in our common struggle against poverty. India indeed has much to teach the world.
I wish you well on your road to good urban governance.