Major Improvements in Local Governance Being Targeted in 2017/18

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, is declaring that it will not be “business as usual”, emphasising that the Ministry will be focusing on a “new way of doing things”.
  • Mr McKenzie urges councillors of the municipal authorities to regard their role as much more than bushing verges and cleaning drains, emphasising that “we have this opportunity to make local government (really) work
  • One of the priority focus areas in which he says significant changes will occur is responsibility to the indigent, pointing out that the housing programme for this group is to be reviewed.

Major improvements in the execution of local governance are expected to take place during the 2017/18 fiscal year, which begins on April 1

Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, is declaring that it will not be “business as usual”, emphasising that the Ministry will be focusing on a “new way of doing things”.

He was speaking at one in the series of two-day regional orientation/sensitisation fora organised by the Ministry for newly elected and re-elected local government representatives in St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland, at the Jewels Dunn’s River Resort in Ocho Rios.

Mr. McKenzie urges councillors of the municipal authorities to regard their role as much more than bushing verges and cleaning drains, emphasising that “we have this opportunity to make local government (really) work”.

One of the priority focus areas in which he says significant changes will occur is responsibility to the indigent, pointing out that the housing programme for this group is to be reviewed.

Additionally, Mr. McKenzie says the Government will spend more than $185 million during the year to build new infirmaries and refurbish others, as part of the institutional strengthening at these facilities, to better accommodate more of the persons living on the streets.

He advises that new infirmaries and administrative offices will be built in Portland and Manchester, while more than $25 million will be spent to construct a new facility in St. James as also an administrative office in St. Elizabeth.

Mr. McKenzie says property tax collection is another priority focus that will be addressed by the Ministry.

This, he emphasises, is imperative, as some $9 billion in uncollected taxes is owed to the Government.

The Minister stresses that there will be an ongoing exercise in the new year to collect as much of those arrears as possible.

Mr. McKenzie urges councillors and ministries, departments and agencies that are delinquent to make arrangements for the payment of their arrears.

“I have a list of 229 councillors, some of whom have not paid any property tax for over 20 years; some own more than one property, but have not been paying taxes,” he points out.

The Minister stresses that under the law, property taxes are pivotal to the effective operation of the municipal corporations.

“Everyone in the Ministry of Local Government and its agencies has an obligation…we must pay. So the first set of names that will be published in the media will be those of elected representatives (if they fail to comply). We won’t have the moral authority to talk about others if we are not paying,” Mr. McKenzie adds.

Trade licences, building fees and a revision of the anti-litter fines are among a raft of other fees to be addressed, which Mr. McKenzie says, once paid, will reduce the likelihood of requests for emergency funding support of central Government by the municipal corporations to clean drains and carry out other activities.

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