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KARACHI: Administrator Karachi Barrister Murtaza Wahab on Thursday said collection of municipal and property taxes is of paramount importance to run the affairs of Karachi because the share of annual property tax collection from Karachi is only Rs 1.6 billion as compared to Rs 53 billion collected from the Mumbai city of neighbouring India.

Also, he said due to commercialization of 40 roads in Karachi, high-rise buildings were constructed in narrow spaces and ultimately the citizens suffered as the existing infrastructure was severely affected. The administrator expressed these views at the KMC head office while addressing open forum ‘Karachi Shehar Kese Kam Karta Hai’ (How does Karachi city work) under CLICK. Metropolitan Commissioner Syed Afzal Zaidi was also present on the occasion.

The open forum was attended by a large number of students from different colleges and universities of Karachi, prominent citizens and representatives of civil society.

The administrator Karachi said he always said that he cannot solve the problems of 40 years in four months, adding that will not go for political blame game. He said public-private partnership must be reactivated to improve the city.

“Citizens should cooperate with the KMC. Karachi has been badly branded in the past even though the city is not so bad,” the administrator added. He said when the time came for new delimitations in 2021, the Local Government Act was reformed and for this purpose all political parties and stakeholders were consulted. Barrister Murtaza Wahab said in the new system, local bodies had been given full powers to solve the problems of the citizens and improve their standard of living.

“Once the funds are collected, the people will be able to ask the elected representatives where the money was spent. In the past, there were frequent decry of lack of power which became a common impression. We as citizens have to decide whether we want to run the institutions on a sustainable basis or not,” he said and added that no house or institution can function without adequate revenue.

The Administrator Karachi said water scarcity is a major problem in the country and local, provincial and federal governments have to work together to solve it. He said that the provincial government is assisting KMC in setting up a desalination plant in Karachi. He said if the situation was to be rectified; the municipal tax system would have to be run in the style of other major cities of the world.

“The KMC used to collect only Rs. 210 million annually and out of this a handsome amount was given to the tax collecting company. We decided to levy a local body tax of Rs. 200 per household on electricity bills like PTV license but it was severely criticized and it was said that the burden is being placed on the citizens, although this is not the case,” the Administrator said.

He said that in the new system, it has been decided to collect property tax through local bodies. The provincial government has made this decision with an open mind and has also agreed to meet the shortfall of the first year.

He said education and health are not municipal but provincial functions so it had been decided that the provincial government would take care of these matters. The administrator said that the performance of the provincial government is better than that of KMC when compared to medical institutions.

“I, like others, could have borrowed from the provincial government, but that is not the solution. All information related to KMC’s assets is posted on the website in a transparent manner,” Wahab added. Metropolitan Commis-sioner Syed Afzal Zaidi also addressed the open forum and in response to the questions of the participants said that the city government is working at all levels to solve the problems of the citizens.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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