Education

Participatory budget

D. Murali | Updated on June 11, 2011 Published on June 11, 2011

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Orçamento participativo (OP) or ‘participatory budget' finds a positive mention in ‘ Citizen Leadership: Deepening democratic accountability in India, Brazil and South Africa,' edited by Vikas Jha, Bhavita Vaishnava, and Kaustuv Kanti Bandyopadhyay ( www.academicfoundation.com).

OP, as one learns from an essay in the book, has made considerable contribution in allocating budgets for housing in Diadema, Brazil. Instituted in 1994, with the aim of discussing the priorities in the municipal government's annual budget, it has helped in fulfilling the demands of the inhabitants of the city's different neighbourhoods, inform the essay's authors Patrícia L. N. Cobra and Lizandra Serafim.

They describe how the OP process started with the convening of assemblies in the neighbourhoods where the inhabitants' demands were discussed and representatives for the higher (regional) plenaries were selected. These representatives discussed the communities' demands with the Mayor on a monthly basis, and the demands were later taken up by the municipal government. In the authors' view, the participatory budget helped not only the completion of projects related to infrastructure and housing but also the training of the communities in the participatory processes. Importantly, as the essay documents, the state played the role of mobiliser, capacity-builder, and envisioner, rather than dominating the participatory spaces.

Insightful read.

Islamic finance contracts

A critical factor in the development of the Islamic financial services industry is taxation framework, highlights ‘ Islamic Finance: Writings of V. Sundararajan,' edited by Jaseem Ahmed and Harinder S. Kohli ( www.sagepublications.com). Such a framework should ensure tax neutrality, so that Islamic finance contracts incur the same level of taxation as the equivalent conventional counterparts, the author argues.

He cautions that the Islamic finance contracts, which often involve multiple transactions and additional parties compared to conventional instruments, are likely to attract higher taxation in many tax systems, and can thus impose higher costs on Islamic finance.

Thankfully, however, in some countries such as the UK and Singapore, the double stamp duty on a few Islamic modes of finance has been abolished, so as to provide tax neutrality, the author observes.

“Malaysia has also issued legislation providing stamp duty exemptions for additional instruments in Shari'ah-compliant financing schemes, deductions for expenditure incurred on them, and in issuing Islamic securities, and tax exemptions on the resulting assets and profits similar to the treatment of interest cost or earnings from conventional securities.”

Erudite compilation of immense value.

Professors in enterprises

One of the responses of China to the global financial crisis was to give full play to the role of scientific researchers, universities, and research institutions and encourage scientists and researchers to work with the enterprises, to understand business needs, and to help enterprises tide over difficulties. Documenting this is an essay titled ‘China: Challenges for higher education in a high-growth economy,' included in ‘ Universities in Transition: The changing role and challenges for academic institutions,' edited by Bo Göransson and Claes Brundenius ( www.idrc.ca).

Many local governments in China have also taken active measures to make scientific and technical personnel better serve the needs of the enterprise, write the essay's authors, Wang Haiyan and Zhou Yuan. They cite, as example, the special action taken by the government of Guangdong Province. “

The main component of the action is the collaboration of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education, Guangdong Provincial Government, in a nation-wide search for outstanding professors of well-known universities or research institutes and providing research funds for them to work with enterprises and to provide technical assistance activities for enterprises in Guangdong.”

Recommended addition to professional educators' shelf.

Community participation in education

Though most states in India have held elections for the local bodies, the involvement of the panchayat in the functioning of the school system seems to be limited, rues one of the essays included in ‘ Who Goes to School? Exploring exclusion in Indian education,' edited by R. Govinda ( www.oup.com).

“In most cases, panchayats have been responsible for constructing, repairing, and the maintenance of school buildings only, and the lowest tier of panchayats hardly has any say in educational matters of children and in the functioning of the local school.” The authors also fret that undue political interference by local leaders or general indifference towards educational development is undermining the positive role of panchayats in education and weakening the process of local governance as a whole.

It can be refreshing, however, to read in the book examples of community participation to ensure the reach of education at the grass-root level.

One such is the initiative in Andhra Pradesh to involve community members on a large scale through programmes such as ‘ Chaduvula Panduga' (festival of education). Another example is ‘ Alokar Jatra,' from Assam, a programme whereby local communities are involved in conducting a household survey, resulting in ‘a local-level database on the educational status of children with positive impact on access and enrolment.'

Instructive material.

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Published on June 11, 2011
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