Richest civic body, but a poor spender | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Richest civic body, but a poor spender

Rarely has the BMC been able to spend more than 50-60% of its total budget, but civic officials say the figure hides more than it reveals

mumbai Updated: Feb 02, 2016 00:48 IST
Of its Rs33,000-odd crore budget, until the end of January, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation spent only 25.59% of its capital expenditure or the money it had provisioned for new projects.
Of its Rs33,000-odd crore budget, until the end of January, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation spent only 25.59% of its capital expenditure or the money it had provisioned for new projects.(File photo)

It is the same old story, all over again. For yet another year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will spend less than half the money it allocated last year, in the civic budget.

Of its Rs33,000-odd crore budget, until the end of January, it spent only 25.59% of its capital expenditure or the money it had provisioned for new projects.

Read more: Tell us how the BMC should spend your money on Mumbai

This is the state of affairs almost every year. Rarely has the BMC been able to spend more than 50-60% of its money. Civic officials say the figure hides more than it reveals. They argue that most bills and project payments are done only at the end of the project, which may not be in the same year for major projects. Despite this, the figures are revealing — of the total Rs11,823.61 crore earmarked for capital expenditure, only Rs3,026 .21 crore has been spent. The roads department, which gets a major share of the budget to repair and maintain the roads — Rs2,500 crore — has spent only 34% of it. This money is meant for the maintenance of your neighbourhood roads, resurfacing arterial road network and more parking lots, among others. This could also explain why several city roads are in bad shape.

Data shows a majority of the money allocated by the BMC remains unspent, a major indicator that shows how the BMC’s budget-making exercise seems skewed.

The three-year road master plan has a Rs5,000 crore budget, but an important stakeholder has been left behind: the citizens. The result is for everyone to see. Of the 840 roads the BMC planned to reconstruct or resurface this year, 153 were found to be in a good condition.

The BMC plans major projects like the coastal road, the Goregaon-Mulund link, but implementation is almost zero. Some projects have dragged on for years and money is allocated for them every year.

Is there a way out? Globally, there have been examples of cities listening to its citizens before finalising their budgets. Participatory budgeting, a process where citizens are asked what the spending priorities must be, can be the solution to such poorly managed spending. In Latin America, urban local bodies spend more and efficiently so, when citizens are involved in budgeting. The logic is simple — citizens can tell us their problems better than bureaucrats. Mumbai, itself, is replete with examples of how keeping citizens away has only added to the civic body’s woes. Case in point: The controversial open spaces policy, which has been 10 years in making. After citizens protested to some of the clauses, the BMC was forced take a second look at it.

Another lopsided approach is visible in the BMC’s approach to provide basic sanitation. “On many occasions, our survey found the BMC planned toilets in the area where it was least required,” said Mumtaz Shaikh, Right to Pee activist.

On Twitter

@AUThackeray: Noticed a lovely initiative by @HTMumbai about #myBMCbudget. I’m sure that many of the good suggestions would be taken by the BMC

Sukhada Tatke @ASuitableGirl : Nothing is more important in urban planning than citizens’ involvement. Here’s your chance to speak of your needs #myBMCbudget

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