More Transparent System with Entrenchment of Local Government – Montague


State Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, has said that entrenchment of Local Government in the Constitution would provide a more transparent system, which would favour the average citizen.
He also noted that entrenchment would allow citizens to have greater input in the system of governance, rather than having critical issues dealt with at the convenience of the administration.
Addressing members of the Clarendon Parish Council on June 24, in May Pen, the State Minister pointed out that a draft amendment had already been prepared to have Local Government entrenched in the Jamaican constitution, as part of the reform process.
“Right now, Local Government is not entrenched and we are determined to have Local Government entrenched in our constitution. We have completed the draft amendment and it is now in the Cabinet Office,” he informed.
Mr. Montague, who has responsibility for Local Government reform, further argued that it is imperative that Jamaicans demand optimal performance from their elected representatives, who should be fully accountable to them. As such, he disclosed that a 20-year Development Plan would be compiled, using the respective Parish Development Committee (PDC), in each case, as the medium through which Jamaicans will make their input.
“Councillors ought to give account of their stewardship to the people. Democracy is something that has to be worked on, day in, day out. The citizens have to be part of the decision making process. We are working with the communities and that is why we are trying to strengthen the PDCs. Each PDC is required to provide a 20-year Development Plan for their parish,” he said.
“If 20 years ago, we had a Development Plan for Clarendon, today we would be adding or deleting, or implementing elements of that plan, and what we don’t want is that in 20 years’ time, our children condemn us for not having a plan. They must tell us that our plan was not adequate or did not address certain things, but for God’s sake, we must have a plan. And therefore, a part of that Local Government reform programme is to produce a plan,” he emphasised.
Another aspect of the reform initiative, according to the State Minister, will be the allocation of a portion of the national budget to Local Government.
“What we are saying is that a slice of the national budget will be dedicated to Local Government, and it does not matter which party forms the Government. What is for Local Government must be dedicated to Local Government,” Mr. Montague stressed.
Some of the other measures to be adopted as part of the process, will be the return of certain functions to the parish councils, including the calculation of Councillors’ pensions and the payment for street lighting to the Jamaica Public Service Company. The implementation of a sustained public education programme to facilitate greater dialogue between citizens and elected officials will also be high on the agenda.
“Local Government Reform is not a programme, it is a process, and critical to the success of this process is an informed citizenry. Hence, we are shifting our focus from Local Government to local governance that embraces citizens’ participation,” the State Minister said.

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