ADDRESS BY THE MOST. HON. P.J. PATTERSON, ON, PC, QC, MP PRIME MINISTER AT THE COMMONWEALTH/LOCAL GOVERNMENT FORUM


The theme of this Conference is “Making Local Government Work”. My long experience at the helm of Government, in Jamaica, has led me to a full awareness of the growing complexity and diversity of government and governance.
Central Government, no matter how decentralized, cannot deliver on the multitude of non-standardized services now being demanded by our citizens or directly help needy people in towns, communities and rural areas to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Yet it is the Central Government’s inalienable responsibility to provide for or ensure the provision of the common good.
We have established a series of poverty eradication programmes and have sought to target the urban and rural disadvantaged populations. We have widened the reach and scope of the education product to nearly all our children. We have provided access roads throughout the country for farmers and residents in rural areas. We have engaged in a major public sector reform programme, which has been concerned with efficiency and effectiveness, as well as with decentralized government.
The decentralization process has continued with the commitment to provide for ultramodern regional hospitals as the central foci for a decentralized health system, which reached the needy. We have engaged in a variety of land reform programmes making land and house spots available to a substantial number of persons. In all of these efforts we strove for quality outputs. Indeed, with highly constrained government financial resources, the state has managed to commit itself to a considerable amount of substantive reforms.
Specifically in relation to Local Government, there have been many legislative and regulatory changes introduced, which were intended to strengthen the system and have done so in many respects. While constitutional reform has not proceeded, so far, in a comprehensive manner, it is an important aspect of developing new citizen/state relationships, which will be dynamic and appropriate for a 21st Century Jamaica.
Within this framework it is intended to ensure that a reformed local government system will be a vital force in Jamaican political and social life fully provided with the appropriate personnel and financial resources to succeed at this task. We have attached local development committees to Parish Councils because there is a vital role for local government to play in achieving sustainable and equitable development for all our people.
In line with the theme of this conference we want to assure you that his government is deeply committed to a highly reformed and effective local government system in Jamaica. The voices of our people will be heard, and in constructive frameworks, within which our people too can contribute to determining development priorities and in implementing policies.
We are pleased that Jamaica is the host country for this Regional Conference. We warmly welcome our Commonwealth Caribbean colleagues and wish for you a most productive three days. We give you the assurances that our government eagerly awaits the recommendations and will do all in our power to ensure the implementation of all that is appropriate for Jamaica.

JIS Social