Mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh made the remark during an interview with Bangla Tribune in his office recently
Mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh has taken various initiatives to make the economically fragile Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) self-sufficient. He said DSCC would be made self-sufficient by increasing revenue. However, no new tax will be increased. Revenue will increase without raising taxes if we can follow our plan. The mayor made the remark during an interview with Bangla Tribune in his office recently. The mayor disclosed many ideas including his plans to boost the corporation’s revenue during the interview.
City Corporation builds and renovates roads in the capital. But the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) collects tax from the public transport for road use. Would you like to address that issue?
The range of service a city corporation provides is very wide. We want to increase that even more. We want to implement revenue streams from different services. We will collect revenue from 26 more new sectors. Here the revenue streams will increase without any tax increase. Although there were laws, the city corporation never generated any income from various sectors in its history. The taxes used to be collected only from eight sectors. So there was an extra pressure on the people as there were less sectors. The responsibility of repairing or renovating all the roads of Dhaka rests with the city corporation. We spend a lot of money in repairing and renovating the roads. Besides, we have to get a lot of money from the government for the road maintenance. We build the roads and other companies destroy them. Especially BRTA, who collects taxes from all vehicles. Why do they take tax? Only license fee? No, fitness fee? Not only these. Fees are also charged for the use of these roads. But we do not get any share from there. We think we should get the majority of tax in this sector. We only get a small percentage that we don’t want. We think a large part of it should be given to the city corporation.
You are going to give the biggest budget in the history of the city corporation. We saw it in the past that city corporations failed to meet the targets of the budget. How optimistic are you in this case?
Previously, city corporations used to show a large amount of revenue from some typical sectors, which we didn't do. The revenue we are expecting is very logical. By ensuring service, we will now collect taxes from the sectors from which we were not used to receiving any money before. Therefore, I think revenue collection will increase without any tax increase. We hope that a large portion of the revenue collection target we have set will be achieved. We expect to meet over 90% of our target.
In recent years, to break free from the syndicates, the government has given licenses to city corporations to import mosquito repellents. But the problem still persists. According to the license, the city corporation is able to import the drugs but is not able to formulate them. As a result, we have fallen into the same old circle again. Because of the syndicate, the city corporation has not been able to formulate the imported drugs yet. Will the city corporation seek permission from the government to complete the process of drug formulation?
There were many issues before. The city corporation was dependent on others for the pesticides that were imported to kill mosquitoes. There was a big gap there. Secondly, there was a large syndicate involved in mixing the pesticides. This time, in fact, there is none. The government has given its decision to allow us to import the main pesticide ourselves. People are getting the benefits of it and its quality is very good. Thirdly, the price at which the mixture was being mixed is very high. We have cancelled that tender. I personally visited two factories to verify the capacity. We are getting a much lower rate than the previous price.
We can't do everything we want. Some have to be supplied, some have to be collected. Because, if we get more involved in these, then we will not be able to provide services. Our main job is to provide services to people. The people of Dhaka are already reaping the benefits of the strategy we have taken to provide that service and they will get more in the future. Now that there is no syndicate, we have been able to create a fairly corruption-free environment. I have been able to send a message to the people that there will be no place for corruption here. I think the transparency will gradually increase. We are trying to comply with these. I think if it gets more transparency, these atrocities will be eradicated.
There is discrimination between old and new homeowners regarding the holding tax. Owners of old houses pay taxes at the same ratio as they did 30 years ago, while new homeowners pay taxes according to the current ratio. Will you take any initiative to re-evaluate the holding tax to increase revenue?
As I said in my election manifesto, no taxes will be increased. Holding tax is a big chunk of our tax collection. We are not introducing any new pricing this year. Everyone has been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we don’t want them to face any new financial loss.
A large portion of these holding owners lives on the rent they receive. Due to the pandemic, the rent has decreased, reducing their income. Taking all things into consideration, we are re-evaluating the tax.
But people are taking advantage of the loopholes present in the old rules, there is a lot of corruption here. In some cases, a house that was one-storey has been evaluated on the first floor only. It is a 4-storey building now but the remaining three floors have not been evaluated. We will look into these matters and close these loopholes so that everyone is treated fairly. However, we are not taking any decision to increase the tax.
Dhaka is called the city of rickshaws, and these rickshaws are blamed for the traffic jam in the city. You have taken an initiative to impose a tax on rickshaws in the new budget. Will there be any initiative to decrease the number of rickshaws to reduce traffic congestion?
Rickshaws are a part of our heritage. I think rickshaws are a big feature of Dhaka city. There will be rickshaws here but they will operate in a controlled manner.
Rickshaw pullers play a big role in public transport. But they are neglected, oppressed, and victims of contempt. We have taken an initiative to bring it into a discipline.
We are taking an initiative to increase the efficiency of the roads in the city. There will be some roads designated to high-speed vehicles, some roads where rickshaws will run. We can enjoy the city in slow vehicles. Some roads will be designated only for walking. We will differentiate the roads by determining their effectiveness. Rickshaws will play a big role there. Rickshaws are a slow but enjoyable vehicle.
We are making the registration process transparent. We will fix the exact number of rickshaw pullers allowed in Dhaka city. About 50,000 rickshaws are registered but the actual number is several times more than that.
We will decide how many rickshaws will run and on which roads. We think rickshaws can run on all roads after 7pm. Rickshaws may not run on roads where public transports operate during the day. Fast and slow vehicles will not operate on the same road. In this way, we are rearranging the whole matter through our master plan.
I think if we can bring Dhaka city under the master plan, we will be able to streamline the transportation system. Dhaka city will be known as a mobile city where the rickshaws of our tradition will run nicely, we will walk on foot, and also on public transport and metro rail.