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MONTEGO BAY – Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, says the series of town hall meetings, now underway, will become a permanent feature as the Government continues to interface with the public on critical issues.

The series of parish fora, organised by the Social Development Commission (SDC), provide the opportunity for Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller and other Government Ministers, to engage the public on a range of matters.

Relevant government agencies also update the public on programmes and initiatives specific to the local and parish levels.  Three sessions have been held in St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. James, since the meetings got underway on October 17.

Speaking at the third session held on Thursday (Nov. 22) at the West Jamaica Conference Centre in Mount Salem, Minister Arscott said the meetings have been impressive to date. He said that they will continue as an avenue through which people's views are heard, and concerns addressed.

"The town hall meetings will be a permanent feature for the Government to have dialogue with the people, and we intend to go from parish to parish to ensure that the people can express themselves; we can take notes and address the issues," he stated.

"Our commitment is to take the Government to the people, and we expect you to be a part of the process of governance so we are coming to you to hear your views, to share ideas, and together build a better Jamaica," he added.

Mr. Arscott noted that the covenant for good governance has to be a partnership with the people. "It has to be open, accountable, responsive, and inclusive. It has to embrace civil society, community groups, citizens' associations, sectoral interest groups, our youth, and our most vulnerable," he stated.

Turning to matters in the parish, he informed that the St. James Parish Council will be receiving technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to improve the management of its affairs. He said that the municipality was one of a few in the region that the institution approved for funding.

"Just recently, a mission team from IDB conducted an in-depth assessment of the Council and its operations, and engaged key stakeholders. This opportunity will bring more productivity and positive focus to the municipality, to ensure quality service delivery and more inclusive management of local affairs with the community," Mr. Arscott said.

The Minister also called on operators of food establishments to help contain the rat population in the parish by separating food from other waste, and storing it in properly covered containers until it is collected by the solid waste agency.

"We are asking them to containerise their garbage, especially the food stuff. It is feeding the rats, and we want to control the rat population in Jamaica, and by containerising their garbage it makes for a more manageable situation for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA)," he said.