chapter  6
20 Pages

Chatper 6: The Politics of Fiscal Austerity in Creating Equitable City Government

The financial position of a city profoundly affects the absolute and relative power of its citizens to leverage local government resources. There is nothing like the spectre of municipal bankruptcy to focus the collective minds of residents, politicians and officials on defining ‘core business’, getting ‘back to basics’ or seeking ‘external development partners’. This has been the recent experience of Johannesburg, which, despite being the richest city in sub-Saharan Africa, saw its reconstruction severely curtailed by real and perceived resource constraints. In Johannesburg, the discourse of budgetary crisis, of municipal bankruptcy and the imperatives of sound financial management came to dominate the post-apartheid local government agenda alongside (and, some argue, in conflict with) the pro-poor rhetoric of DLG (Bond, 2000b).