KUALA Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) proposed hefty hike in assessment rates has caught city dwellers by surprise as the increase was way beyond their imagination or expectation.
One does not dispute that rates or quit rent are bound to rise to keep pace with the accelerating cost of living and other factors. However, DBKL is also duty bound not to opt for a hefty hike but look at other avenues to defray the cost and keep domestic and residential assessment rates at a reasonable level.
DBKL needs to go for cost cutting measures to stop its runaway annual budget for the city. There are many ways of doing this.
The various contracts given out by DBKL need to be scrutinised to see whether they are really cost effective and competitively priced. It has now come to a stage where even turfing or landscaping a small area costs tens of thousands of ringgit.
It could be even worse when it comes to other major municipal services. The prices quoted by contractors are prohibitively high. Some of the projects are totally unnecessary and wasteful and the people should not be burdened by paying for them.
Rubbish collection now needs about 30 – 50% of the budget. No major recycling effort is made to reduce the garbage and thus reduce costs.
Littering as well as vandalism are major problems in the city and add to the cost. Stiffer fines could help somewhat.
Also, DBKL is bloated with a lot of unnecessary personnel and professionals that needs to be trimmed, now that computerisation and outsourcing should limit the number of employees.
The hefty hike in rates has also awakened the long-suppressed urge of KLites to have local council elections, for the city administration to be held more accountable and transparent. Needless to say, elected local councillors can contribute much to a more people-orientated rather than a project-orientated DBKL, as well as initiate cost efficient approaches that will find favour with the city folks. The KL Members of Parliament can only do so much as City Hall is not bound to follow their views and input, especially as most of them are from the opposition parties.
The city folks should now clamour even more for local council elections to be started. Elected councillors would be better suited as they are specifically tasked to address local government problems and the Mayor and department heads are duty-bound to take their views seriously.
One of the major problems facing the people of KL has been that there has been no local government representation since KL became a separate city. KL has neither local councillors nor assemblymen but only MPs.
As the city grows exponentially, various local problems are now coming to the fore. One of them is the escalating expense of running the city. The 11 MPs are simply not adequate for the million-plus city.
Each MP has to cover more than a hundred thousand people, which is an impossible task to represent them effectively. What KL needs is a system of local councillors who can ensure efficient and competent administration, cost-cutting and competitive tenders, and halt unnecessary development, stop wastage and the endless urban sprawl, instead of sky-rocketing expenditure in various areas and sectors that pass the buck to city dwellers already burdened by an increased cost of living.
The Federal Government needs to allocate larger amounts to KL as Putrajaya and Labuan are also now getting a big chunk of the Federal spending. The allocations should be based on the population size and not on other factors which will mean that KL will get bigger grants.
Alternatively, DBKL can use its prime land reserves to be sold to the highest bidder to offset any need for hefty hikes in rates. For this to occur DBKL needs to reserve its prime land and not sell it for short-term gains. A hectare of land in prime areas could cost more than a hundred million ringgit in the future and this could be used to bring down the rates or for other good purposes.
Contributed by V. THOMAS, Sungai Buloh, Selangor The Star
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