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    ROLE OF INTER-GOVERNMENTAL FISCAL RELATIONS (IGFR) INSTITUTIONS IN DECENTRALISATION

    Financial and Fiscal Commission 20th Anniversary Conference: “A Review Of South Africa’s Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations System: An African Perspective on Fiscal Decentralization

    From the 11 - 13 August 2014 the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) marked its 20th anniversary of existence in 2014 as one of the recognized leading institutions giving advice and recommendations to organs of the state in the national, provincial and local spheres of government on financial and fiscal matters in South Africa. Between 1994 and 2005 the Commission played a central role in the development and evolution of the intergovernmental fiscal relations (IGFR) system.

    The overall theme for the Conference, which provided an overarching framework for the subthemes, was: Review of South Africa’s Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations System: An African Perspective on Fiscal Decentralization.  The Conference looked back and evaluated 20 years of South Africa's IGFR practice, as well as the choices that will have to be made going forward given developments such as the new growth path and the development policy objectives of a developmental state (encapsulated in the National Development Plan) that has been agreed in Parliament in general and government in particular.

    MISTRA’s Executive Director, Joel Netshitenzhe took part in a panel discussion entitled: “Reflections On 20 Years of the FFC’s Role in IGFR In South Africa: A 20-Year Review Of The Financial And Fiscal Commission (Ffc)”.  The speaker was Prof Jaap De Visser, Director of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape. 

    Role Of Inter-Governmental Fiscal Relations (Igfr) Institutions In Decentralisation

    By Joel Netshitenzhe

    INTRODUCTION

    1           There is a sense in which those located outside of government, but somehow indirectly or historically linked to it, can have the advantage of observing from near and objectively judging from afar. But, distance can also create a simplistic view of complex phenomena, thus rendering ideas proffered impracticable and unhelpful. These comments should be taken in that spirit.

    2           Overall, the observation is apt that the FFC has been one of the iconic institutions in the emergence and evolution of South African democracy in general and its fiscal systems in particular. The 20-year anniversary of the FFC not only marks a critical milestone; but also presents a platform to chart a path that will ensure the FFC’s relevance and contribution well into the future.

    BASIC UNDERPINNINGS OF IGFR SYSTEMS

    3           The fundamental purpose of governance, particularly in a democracy, is to build a better life for all and ensure equitable and humane relations with the world. The state and its variety of agencies including fiscal authorities do not exist for their own sake.

    4           Nations settle on particular permutations of multi-order governance informed by a multiplicity of factors including: history, culture, balance of forces among contending forces, and approach to management of social fault-lines. There is no perfect blueprint; and because these driving forces change, democratic multi-order governance is a continuing experiment.

    5           In any polity, the pursuit of fair, accountable, incorruptible and responsive governance (FAIR) is a noble undertaking that should inform the efforts of citizens and governors alike. In that endeavour, it is critical to eschew the temptation to reduce the discourse to dynamics among a select set of indicators. The correlations and causalities among multi-order governance indicators – let alone the very choice of such indicators – are too complex and multidirectional to lend themselves to mechanical reductionism.

     

    Download PDF of paper: FFC Conference JN discussant.pdfFFC Conference JN discussant.pdf

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