Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, says the Government is committed to putting a fully developed local government structure in place, as a means of effective governance and sustainable urban development.
He said the administration also “firmly believes” that in order to advance an urban development agenda for Jamaica, “the voice of the people must be the guiding principle”.
"Through a proper local government structure, we are committed to our mandate of accountability, effectiveness, transparency, and responsiveness. We recognise that these important hallmarks of good governance are necessary for economic growth, sustainable development and poverty eradication,” he stated.
The Minister was addressing Wednesday’s (March 14) opening ceremony for the second Caribbean Urban Forum at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston,
More than 30 delegates and participants from the Caribbean, North America, and other parts of the world are in the island for the 2nd annual four-day forum from March 14 and 17, under the theme: ‘Planning to Achieve…the Vision Towards a Green Urban Economy (CUF 2012)’.
The event is organised by the Caribbean Network for Urban and land Management (CNULM), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, and through support from the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the American Planners Association (APA).
The forum will, among other things, showcase examples of good planning and urban management practices across the Caribbean, and serve as a launching pad for the Caribbean Planners Association (CPA).
“I am heartened to see the broad-based representation of urban and regional planners from across Jamaica, the wider Caribbean and, indeed, the rest of the world, gathered here to discuss the Caribbean urban agenda,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
He noted that the Caribbean is regarded as one of the most urbanised regions globally, with 70 per cent of the population residing in towns or cities, and there are issues attendant with such a high concentration of people.
These, he pointed out, include: crime and violence, proper solid waste management, adequate infrastructure, and access to safe drinking water. He noted that addressing these issues require the concerted efforts of various stakeholders.
“For example, problems of public safety require inputs from social, spatial and legal perspectives. We also require the input of urban planners, infrastructural engineers, environmental specialists and the residents, who will be affected,” he stated.
The Minister welcomed the staging of the event, noting that while Caribbean urban areas vary in population, geographical conditions and quality of life, countries could benefit from the exchange of knowledge and experience of best practices within a regional context.
The conference theme, he noted further, spoke directly to the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 Jamaica, which provides the framework for the country progression to developed country status, and to become the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.
“However, for us to get there, by 2030, we must adopt good planning practices from across the regions, our neighbours to the north, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. I trust that the presentations, relevant discussions and recommendations in this forum will inform the preparation and implementation of more effective policies, strategies and programmes to address the issues relating to rapid urbanisation in the Caribbean,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter