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Gov’t Prepares to Decentralize Public Administration
Source: Sundays Zaman http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=223314
Source Date: Sunday, October 03, 2010
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Turkey
Created: Oct 04, 2010

The latest part of the democratic initiative that has occupied the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s agenda will be a reform of local administrations in which the municipalities and special provincial administrations will be empowered vis-à-vis the central authority.

According to the information Sunday’s Zaman received from the Interior Ministry, the government has been planning this in a surreptitious manner to avoid ultranationalists from speculating that the planned reform will turn Turkey into a federal state where Kurds will have autonomous local governments in the Southeast.

The government’s idea to decentralize state administration is also endorsed by President Abdullah Gül who said last week before departing for the US to attend a UN General Assembly meeting that it was necessary to expand the authority of local administrations because administering everything from Ankara is unsuitable for modern public management. Gül also cautioned that such a policy change will have nothing to do with a hidden agenda concerning granting autonomy to any part of Turkey.

As part of its reform plan is financially supported by the European Union and provided with technical assistance by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the government has already completed implementation testing in 11 localities around the country. Now the reform plan, details of which are undisclosed for the said reason, is ready to be implemented countrywide, ministry sources told Sunday’s Zaman, adding that it will be based on the principle of subsidiarity, which means that all public services will be offered and administered by the closest authority and with increased participation. To ascertain the details of the reform and improve its effectiveness, the government has also invited three field experts from the UK, France and Spain. The ministry sources declined to disclose the experts’ identities.

Once the reform is put into practice, the local administrations will become entities that make most of their decisions on their own but will also be under continuous auditing by the Court of Auditors. The central government will only set the standards and rules that these local administrations need to abide by. Therefore, the ministries local branches will no longer be policy makers. All rural branches of Industry and Trade, Agricultural and Rural Affairs, Environment and Forestry and Culture and Tourism will be transferred to local administrations. The Ministry of National Education, on the other hand, will only continue to set the curricula in schools and the Interior Ministry’s inspections of local administrations will be minimized.

What does the BDP want?
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) wants autonomy for all provinces in the Southeast so that all provinces will be able to use their own flag and language. According to a draft proposal the party prepared, regional assemblies should also be established, which the party claims, will not destroy Turkey’s unitary state structure.

The government, on the other hand, firmly opposes the BDP’s requests and is also concerned that its public administration reform will be misrepresented by the opposition parties to the constituents to manipulate popular conceptions ahead of the 2011 general elections. The government has also detected that the biggest obstacle to implementing such a reform is the Constitution that was drafted in 1982. Therefore, it plans to implement the reform once the country has a completely revised Constitution, for which a joint parliamentary commission is being established, an idea that already has support from opposition parties.

Turkey’s basic law went through a major overhaul following a plebiscite on Sept. 12 when people approved a government-backed package of 26 constitutional amendments. The change was hailed both in and outside Turkey as the common belief is that the changes will strengthen democracy and civilian administration in the country.
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