The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, on June 18, began its series of two-day regional workshops to prepare the local authorities to embrace the new paradigm of local governance.
This is a fundamental feature of local government reform, which the government is aggressively pursuing under a new phase termed “the revitalization of local governance”.
At the opening session held at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew, portfolio Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, said citizen participation in local governance must be put “front and centre", as they must be part of the decision-making process, especially as it pertains to long-term planning and development.
He urged parish councils to examine their service delivery to constituents, so that “when we defend the role of local governance and the local governance system, we have ample ammunition”.
He noted that while local government is often accused of corruption, inefficiency and a waste of public funds, councillors are the first to interface with their communities, and the first point of governance in the country’s democratic process.
The Minister asked that they be vigilant, and become aware “of the new paradigm that we have to deliver…you have to remember that you are part and parcel of an international finance system, and as we grapple with the relationship between ourselves and the IMF, no aspect of the Jamaican economy is out of their purview."
He said as the government moves toward achieving autonomy for local authorities, they must become more innovative in raising funds to advance their work.
Mr. Arscott noted further that as parish councils seek to cut cost and increase efficiency, shared services must become a part of the process, pointing out, for example, that councils could share the services of structural engineers and quantity surveyors.
The series of workshops are being held under the theme: ‘Consolidating the New Local Governance Paradigm: Challenges, Opportunities And Imperatives For The Next 3 Years’ and participants include mayors, councillors, and other local government stakeholders. Other sessions are scheduled for June 20 and 21; June 26 and 27; and July 3 and 4.
The workshops are being held in association with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), and the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica, along with other key partners.
Discussion topics include: ‘Communications marketing in the new local governance paradigm’; ‘Developing parish council communication strategies’; ‘Role of the local authority in promoting community safety and security’; ‘Local sustainable development and local economic development’; and ‘Creating sustainable and prosperous parishes’.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter