It is unthinkable that 35,000 employees of 260 municipalities nationwide have been working without pay for years! Of them, 6,000 staff members got no pay for last five years, 12,000 for two years and for a further 5,000, no salaries for one year. Needless to say, this has caused unthinkable suffering for the thousands of employees and many of whom are all but bankrupt. The government, as per the Paurashava Act, is supposed to provide salaries to at least 0.04 percent of salaries to Paurashava staff. The balance is supposed to come from the municipalities' revenue collection—holding tax and lease on local markets. Beyond this, municipalities are able to meet a mere two percent from land tax. Given the realities on the ground, most municipalities are unable to collect enough revenue to pay salaries.
We have learnt that Tk 1,249 crore is needed annually to pay monthly salaries of all staff (including mayors and counsellors). Since the government pays a mere 0.04 percent of salaries, it is hardly surprising that only Tk 13.67 crore was allocated for the 2018-2019 fiscal. There is of course another side to this entire argument. Local government experts contend that many of the municipalities were set up on political consideration despite having little merit to qualify for that status, i.e. without having much scope to generate the income needed to maintain the staff required of a municipality.
The demand that Pourashava staff should receive regular salaries like the staff members of 17 types of local government bodies receive under Upazila parishad Act 1988 merits consideration. For the time being, some emergency funds should be released from government coffers to mitigate the sufferings of these employees while a more permanent solution is sought. The relevant ministry should set up a commission to conduct a needs assessment of the municipality issue, rationalise their number and make necessary budgetary allocations to that effect. Because at the end of the day, these are employees of the State and they must be paid for their services.