Regional and Constituency Fund Bill to empower regional councils: Uutoni

WINDHOEK: Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Erastus Uutoni, said the Regional and Constituency Fund Bill, which he tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, seeks to financially empower regional councils. In his motivation in the National Assembly, Uutoni said the Bill, among others, will establish a regional and constituency development fund to financially assist with the development of projects in the regions and local authorities. He said the Bill will also provide a guaranteed annual appropriation to fund development projects in all constituencies. If passed, the Bill will repeal and replace the Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity Provisions Act of 2000. The current legislation that ought to provide funding for regional development has shortcomings, the minister said. In terms of the Regional Council's Act of 1992, Uutoni said regional councils are mandated to plan and develop infrastructure such as water, electricity, communication networks and transport systems. Uutoni noted that a lack of financial resources hinders the ability of regional councils to fulfill their statutory mandates, especially with regards to sustainable development initiatives that aim to enhance the well-being of communities at the constituency level. He said the envisaged Regional and Constituency Fund Bill is a pro-decentralisation initiative that provides additional funding from the central government to the regional and constituency levels to boost community-based small-scale development projects. 'The proposed funding approach thus empowers regional governments and gives political leaders and their constituents the opportunity and flexibility to direct resources to support development initiatives at the grass-roots level,' Uutoni explained. The minister added that the envisaged fund will also boost the confidence of local communities in their development initiatives and contribute to employment creation. Meanwhile, Uutoni pointed out that the National Council, which initiated the idea of the fund, has learned f rom Kenya and Zambia, where the implementation of regional and constituency development funds has proved successful. Source: Namibia Press Agency