By Peter Clavelle
Governments (national and subnational) and citizens, in countries in all phases of the development process, are recognizing the paramount importance of sustainable development. While numerous definitions of sustainable development exist, the most popular is “to ensure that development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
The growing understanding of sustainable development is being coupled with a global movement toward decentralization. Decentralization is most frequently defined as the transfer of power and resources from national to subnational governments. Decentralization holds the promise of enhancing local democracy, improving the delivery of public services, and promoting local economic development. The growing commitment to sustainable development and the trend toward decentralization are resulting in a redefinition of economic development-and the role of local government in attracting investment and creating jobs. Local governments are being given the explicit authority, and accepting new responsibilities, for economic development. With decentralization, much of the responsibility for economic development has shifted to the local level. Local Economic Development (LED) reflects this new reality and represents a community’s process to improve economic conditions and the overall quality of life.
Local Economic Development does not just happen. LED requires both a vision and a strategy. LED requires political leadership and the building of local capacity. It requires that the community as a whole, including traditionally marginalized populations, are represented in the LED process. LED requires that municipalities launch new efforts to engage the private sector in efforts to stimulate investment and create jobs.
The municipalities of Albania are uniquely suited to undertake Local Economic Development. The July 2014 Law enacting Territorial Administrative Reform (TAR) reduced the number of local governments from 374 to 61, providing an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen local governance. A new Law on Local Self-Governance (Organic Law) enacted in December 2015 entrusted the newly-consolidated municipalities with the authority and responsibility to serve their citizens better. The Organic Law explicitly states that local governments have the right and responsibility for conducting economic activities. The Law further states that the exclusive functions of municipalities in local economic development include: the preparation of programs for local economic development, support to small business development, the provision of financial grants to support small and medium sized business activities, and the performance of services in support of local economic development.
The Mayor’s role in Local Economic Development cannot be overstated. Mayoral Leadership includes a recognition that job creation and other Local Economic Development (LED) activities will benefit from a more intentional engagement of the Municipality with the private sector. Mayoral Leadership requires the building of local government capacity and improving the business enabling environment. The Leadership of the Mayor is required to link territorial planning and land development with economic development, creating new job opportunities and a better business climate. The Leadership of the Mayor is required to guarantee that local democracy is the underpinning of both planning and development. Mayoral Leadership is necessary to ensure the full participation of populations normally excluded from the political and economic mainstream.
Each municipality of Albania is unique. There are differences in economic challenges, community assets, and municipal capacity. Nevertheless, international best practices and the Albanian experience show that there are common themes and steps that produce stronger local economies and improvements to quality of life. Here are 10 things Mayors can do to lead LED efforts:
Mayors have the power, the authority, the responsibility, and the ability to improve the economic well-being of their communities. Hopefully, this paper offers specific and practical suggestions for actions that Mayors can take. Good luck!Peter Clavelle served as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, USA for seven terms (1989-1993 & 1995-2006). Prior to being elected Mayor, he was Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Director-working for then Mayor Bernie Sanders. Since 2006 he has worked for Tetra Tech, an international development consulting firm. From 2012 to 2016 he served as Chief of Party for USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project (PLGP).