Commonwealth Local Government Forum

No money, no honey: financing local government

by CLGF Secretary-General, Dr Greg Munro


12 April  2017

Many years ago I participated in a government to government visit between South Africa and the Philippines to review the progress that the Philippines government had made in decentralising health care to local government. Our aim was to learn lessons from their strategy to actively decentralise this function across the country. One of the challenges which was clearly evident was that in many instances, the fiscal transfers to local government had not accompanied the delegation of the function. In a small council in Mindanao ,a mayor summed up the result of this very simply by folding his arms and saying: “no money, no honey” - a response I have never forgotten. This challenge is still evident today in many local government systems across many countries.


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint for development and the achievement of a better world by 2030. Two thirds of the more than 160 targets emanating from these goals require local government to be engaged in their implementation to achieve those targets. If we do not resource local government to do this, then the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will be an abject failure. Local government has vital roles in both the delivery of services and the development of our communities and environment, and we need to collectively explore how we resource it. There is clearly still an important space for re-examining local governments’ access to a fairer more equitable distribution of nationally raised revenue, but we also need to explore other options. Nationally adapted frameworks for the raising of local taxes which reflect local circumstances and practices, and alternative mechanisms and processes for managing local government funding are important, but so too is partnership. Local government needs to partner with civil society to create social enterprises and find more creative - and equal - mechanisms of engaging with the private sector. The raising of capital from development banks must include options for community development around nodes of new infrastructure and there are already interesting opportunities being developed in this regard. Access to green financing, municipal bonds, the use of technology for efficiency and attracting inward investment and trade are all key areas for us to explore.


CLGF, at its biennial conference in 2017, hopes to provide a platform to develop some of these options, to showcase best practice examples, to shine a light on new emerging and potential resourcing methods, and to find opportunities for partnership for delivery. The conference, hosted by the Government of Malta in Valletta between 21-24 November 2017, will focus on exactly these issues - the resourcing of local government for delivery and development.


I urge all local government practitioners and stakeholders to join us in Valletta to find solutions and opportunities for what is probably the biggest challenge we will ever face in meeting the SDG goals.


► For further information about the 2017 Commonwealth Local Government Conference check out the conference website


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