KINGSTON — Parliamentarians from throughout the Commonwealth are meeting in Kingston for discussions on the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), with the hope of adopting similar models in their jurisdictions.
The two-day Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) workshop, which got underway yesterday morning at the Wyndham hotel, has attracted international experts and parliamentarians from Uganda, Kenya, Pakistan, and India, among other countries.
Speaker of the House of Representatives and CPA Branch President, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the forum provides an opportunity for Jamaica’s CDF model to be recognised throughout the Commonwealth. “Here is a unique Jamaican project, which could be adopted by the rest of the Commonwealth Parliamentary groupings and we believe that there are a lot of positives in the CDF that could be adopted elsewhere,” he remarked.
He explained that the workshop emerged out of discussions at the 56th annual conference of the CPA, held last year in Kenya, where it was felt that Jamaica’s CDF was an interesting programme, which could be adopted by the rest of the Commonwealth.
“The workshop is to examine what has happened with the CDFs since it started three years ago and also to look at how open and transparent the projects have been and how these projects have benefited the constituents in the different constituencies in Jamaica,” he noted. “We will also look at how they are implemented and whether, in fact, we’re getting value for money in these projects,” he added.
Mr. Chuck said the meeting will explore the question: ‘Is the CDF consistent with parliamentary democracy or is it mainly ‘pork barrel’?’
He informed that to the extent that the findings are positive, the outcomes of the workshop will be sent to the annual assembly of the CPA, which will be held in London in July of this year.
Senior Associate for Academic Affairs, State University of New York’s (SUNY), Center for International Development, Dr. Mark Baskin, said the main focus of the workshop is to develop and adopt key principles for the operations of CDFs.
“We will talk about exactly how the development of the CDFs has taken place in a diverse set of countries from Jamaica, Kenya, and Uganda to India and Pakistan,” he informed. “We understand that in each country, the institutions and the development of CDFs are quite specific to the context, and it works fundamentally differently in Papua New Guinea than say in India or Pakistan,” he noted.
He said the challenge, therefore, is to attempt to develop key principles that can be applied to guide the operations of CDFs in all these jurisdictions.
Key areas for discussion at the meeting will include the policy-making process of CDFs; transparency and the competitive process in the solicitation, selection and award of CDF grants; and the effective implementation of CDF projects. It is being sponsored by the CPA and SUNY.
The CDF, which has been widely criticised in some quarters in Jamaica, seeks to improve the effectiveness of members of parliament as a designated funding mechanism for constituency projects.
The main thrust of the fund is to promote human and infrastructure development at the community and constituency levels through the establishment of sustainable development projects.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter