Does Collective Action lead to Improved Service Delivery and Enhanced Tax Collection for Local Governments: Case of Bengaluru, India

Sukanya Bhaumik,
Bangaluru Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, India

This paper contributes to our understanding whether collective action, active citizenry leading to measurable improved service delivery impacts people willingness to pay taxes. In the case of India property taxation is the most important tax collection instrument available to urban local governments. However, property taxation rates in cities are seldom revised, and the underlying valuation of properties is much lower that of their prevailing market value, thus making property taxes a revenue handle with very low buoyancy. While most of these are governance issues the main reason for this can be attributed to the prevailing low equilibrium trap of Indian cities. Poor service delivery in Indian cities, leads to citizen’s unwillingness to pay, leading to poor tax collection and thus perpetuating the local government’s inability to spend on services thus causing poor service delivery.
In the recent past there have been efforts to strengthen ward committees and citizen participation across the city of Bengaluru, although Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs) are not yet set up, but some wards have been more successful than others in strengthening urban governance. Also, several citizen-led initiatives have become very active in the past 2-3 years. This paper will look at the initiatives in selected wards of Bengaluru and that of selected citizen groups and assess the outcomes on service delivery and finally assess the impact on property tax collection.
In this paper we attempt to investigate whether strengthening the link between local collections and urban services can increase citizens’ willingness to pay for services, improve service delivery, and enhance local democracy.
The proposed methodology for this paper includes desk research (BBMP property tax collection data, ward committee details etc.), key informant interview (ward committee members, key position holders in citizen groups) and online focused group discussions (ward committee members, citizen groups).
This outcomes from this paper will be assessed in context of the on on-going PhD research where the scholar is assessing the revenue capacities in cities (objective 2) in order to determine the fiscal gaps in cities.