2 Years to Complete Local Government Reform Process


Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, has been given two years within which to complete the reform of local authorities.
“I have been given a mandate to complete this in 24 months,”Mr. Montague said at a media roundtable held at the offices of the Department of Local Government at 5 Hagley Park Road in Kingston, recently.
“If I am successful, I don’t have a job; if I am unsuccessful, I don’t have a job,” he quipped.
Prime Minster, Bruce Golding, gave the Minister the mandate to implement the local government reform programme, based on the recommendations of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on Local Government Reform. The NAC, chaired by Professor Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, is made up of stakeholders from the local and private sectors, elected officials, political representatives, sports bodies and the nation’s planning authorities, among others.
The NAC has submitted an interim report on local government reform. The recommendations were combined with those of the Joint Select Parliamentary Committee on local government reform, and those outlined in the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) manifesto, to form a document called a ‘Prototype of an Ideal Local Authority’, which was submitted to Cabinet in January for review and consideration.
At the end of the reform process, citizens will see local authorities raising their own revenues, determining the best allocation of their resources, delivering local services and overseeing the operations and activities of central government agencies that operate in their parishes. The NAC, after consultations with stakeholders, has concluded that there is an urgent need to reform local government in order to drive the creative energies of the people of Jamaica. Government has the stated aim of reforming local government by engendering good governance through participation at the community level, and giving people a voice in the decision-making processes that impact their own lives and activities.
The plan for the reformed local government include: entrenching local government in the Constitution; strengthening accountability, transparency and probity in the local authorities; developing a code of conduct for councillors; establishing a local public accounts committee in all parishes; identifying and dedicating a percentage of the national budget to local government; and encouraging the establishment of cities and municipalities, thus allowing for the direct election of mayors.
At the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh, there was an agreement that “effective, elected local government is an important foundation for democracy”. This statement was adopted, and although there is no single model to follow, it was agreed that this should be encouraged.
The General Meeting of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum in Aberdeen, Scotland, on March 18, 2005, which followed the Third Commonwealth Local Government Conference on ‘Deepening Local Democracy,’ was attended by delegates from 46 countries, including more than 20 local government ministers, who signed off on the Aberdeen Agenda.
The implementation of the recommendations of the NAC will allow Jamaica to fulfill its mandate under the Aberdeen Agenda. The country already has a proven ability to elect local officials, such as mayors, as demonstrated in the Municipality of Portmore. Jamaica also has a defined legislative framework for local government reform, as mandated by the Aberdeen Agenda, and.has also made much progress in the constitutional and legal recognition of local democracy.

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