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The first parish symposium under the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, which aims to make Jamaica a place of choice to live, work and raise families and do business in 20 years’ time, was hosted by St. Thomas, today (February 15).
Hundreds flocked the Baptist Church Hall in Knightsville, Yallahs, St. Thomas to participate in the multi-faceted forum, which was organised by the Department of Local Government, in conjunction with local authorities, and held under the theme: ‘My Community, Our Parish, One Jamaica – My Vision’.
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague, called on the participants to engage fully in the discussions, as this was their opportunity to speak to Government, and to contribute to the process of development, not only for their parish, but nationally as well.
“I urge all of us as we sit in the various workshops, to think that if I were to leave St. Thomas and go away for 20 years, and then come back, what would I want to see in my community, in my parish. Today is the day when the people must speak to the government. We want to hear from you,” he said.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague (with microphone), addressing participants at the first parish symposium under the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, at the Baptist Church Hall in Knightsville, Yallahs, St. Thomas, today (February 15).

Mr. Montague urged the participants not to dwell on the parish’s problems, but instead, to focus on solutions, and to help chart the way forward. He further told them to make use of the government agencies represented at the symposium, to learn more about those agencies, and bring to the fore whatever issues the community and the parish may have, so that they could be addressed, or pointed in the right direction.
In his remarks, Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Hanif Brown, said it was significant that the Vision 2030 consultations were beginning in St. Thomas and called on the residents to put an end to the perception of St. Thomas as ‘the Cinderella’ of growth and development in Jamaica. He emphasised that there was a need for a fresh start, more involvement, more inclusiveness and better participatory governance.
“By the time we reach the point where this 20-year sustainable development plan is in the hands of the people, the people will become the watchdog of this process, and the people, in collaboration with those of us who lead, will take on the status quo, to ensure that our vision becomes a reality,” Mayor Brown said.
Other speakers included: Minister of Energy and Mining and Member of Parliament for West St. Thomas; Hon. James Robertson; Custos of St. Thomas, Hon. Marcia Bennett; Executive Director of the HEART Trust/NTA, Dr. Carolyn Hayle; and Sustainable Development Specialist at the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Mrs. Elizabeth Emanuel.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague (with microphone), addressing participants at the first parish symposium under the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, at the Baptist Church Hall in Knightsville, Yallahs, St. Thomas, today (February 15).

The eight-hour symposium featured a number of breakout workshop sessions, led by facilitators, resource panels, and rapporteurs, with participation from some 25 government agencies, including the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), Social Development Commission (SDC), HEART Trust/NTA, Registrar General’s Department (RGD), National Health Fund (NHF), Ministry of Energy and Mining, Rural Electrification Programme, National Works Agency (NWA), Jamaica Public Service, National Water Commission, Sports Development Foundation, Environmental Foundation, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, National Solid Waste Management Authority, Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Fire Brigade, among others.
A wide range of topics were addressed in the sessions, including the infrastructure and the environment, economic development, wealth creation and agriculture, social services and governance. Feedback and reports were presented at the end of each session.
The series of one-day visioning symposia will be held in each parish during the months of February and March, involving a wide range of community organisations and stakeholder groups, representing all geographical areas and the full range of social, economic and cultural facets of life in the parishes.
The fora aim to provide a platform for forging a vision for the development of each community, and the parishes as a whole, to visualise what each parish will achieve in 20 years; and to ensure that this vision is a collective product of all relevant stakeholders. Targeted objectives include: to kick-start the preparation of a 20-year local sustainable development plan (LSDP), or where the parish has already completed its LSDP, or has initiated the process, to support such efforts, or advance them; and ensure that the preparation of LSDPs in each parish is characterised by strong participation of all stakeholders and is shaped by the vision that has been collectively agreed on for the parish.
These consultations also intend to provide citizens with information regarding agencies that can be of assistance in supporting projects/activities which they may wish to undertake, or from which they can access benefits.
According to the Department of Local Government, these symposia “constitute a key element of Local Government Reform, in that they represent a real effort to empower citizens/communities to take the lead in determining their destiny, by participating in the process of shaping the future direction of development for their parish and communities, and will allow them to identify the immediate problems that face them, suggest solutions and also opportunities that are available.”
The next parish symposium will be held tomorrow (February 16) in Port Antonio, Portland, at the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE), followed by a third on Thursday, February 18, at the Anglican Church Hall in Port Maria, St. Mary.