Foreign Aid with Impact Money for Former East Bloc Should Follow Shift in Services from National to Local Governments

By Michael Kumin. Michael Kumin is a student Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. | The Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 1993 | Go to article overview

Foreign Aid with Impact Money for Former East Bloc Should Follow Shift in Services from National to Local Governments


Michael Kumin. Michael Kumin is a student Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University., The Christian Science Monitor


UNITED States foreign-aid policy toward the former communist countries is missing the boat. Since 1989, the US has given more than $10 billion to the republics of the former Soviet Union and almost $2 billion to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. However, these countries face new challenges that foreign aid currently fails to meet.

Every dollar of this aid could have been better spent had the US government responded to the growing needs of local leaders in these countries.

The US and its allies must recognize that, concurrent with democratization, a large-scale transfer of power has occurred in the former Soviet Union and almost every Central and Eastern European country. The highly centralized communist regimes are yielding to far more decentralized systems in which municipalities and localities are shouldering responsibilities previously handled by the national government. Nowhere is this more evident than in Poland, a country that exemplifies this shift in authority and the resulting problems that can follow.

In March 1990, a major transfer of responsibility and authority advanced in Poland when the Local Self-Government Act (LGSA) was enacted. The act shifted responsibility for numerous services from the federal to the local level. These include transportation, environmental protection, water supply and sanitation, energy and heat, health services, housing, and education.

Under the LGSA, local governments are relatively autonomous, with the majority of revenue coming from taxes on local property, personal and corporate income, and user fees.

The city of Glogow in the Silesia region of Poland provides a case study of the new responsibilities that local governments now face. The city's current waste-water treatment system releases effluent waste well below European Community standards.

Thus, the city has begun plans for building a new facility. In the past, the facility would have been designed, maintained, and primarily financed by the central government and the organizations under its control. Now, the local government is responsible for all of these activities.

Many of Poland's local leaders, like those in other former communist nations, are currently unprepared to handle these new responsibilities. …

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