Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says only few things could better illustrate the effectiveness and importance of local government than Jamaica’s management and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a prepared text read by Port Maria’s Mayor, Councillor Richard Creary, at a Local Government and Community Month Youth Mayors’ Forum in Lucea, Hanover, on November 22, Mr. McKenzie said that until the pandemic struck in March 2020, he was not sure whether many persons were fully aware of the multiple roles played by local government in dealing with and responding to a national crisis.
“The role the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, its agencies, and local authorities played in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the system of local government is highly important and relevant in the life of Jamaica,” the Minister argued.
“There is no form of community or national development that can take place without the involvement of local government. Contrary to what you may have heard, our role is not limited to the cleaning of drains. The numbering of roads is done through local government; the approval of residential and commercial buildings, including hotels, is done through local government; civic events are managed by and through local government; the burial of the dead is also regulated by local government, and as in every area of life, effective local government depends on good leadership,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. McKenzie implored the youth mayors to get all their peers enrolled in the Youth Summer Employment Programme, noting that the numbers have risen from 2,000 from the programme’s inception in 2018 to over 7,000 in 2022.
“We are expecting it to be even bigger next year. This year, we had over 7,000 young persons employed for four weeks where our wide range of functions were carried out. Whether it was the conducting of surveys of our indigent and homeless population, night auditing of the streetlight network, to working with disaster coordinators to ensure hurricane readiness or assisting in the COVID-19 vaccination drive… [the programme has been very effective],” he said.
The Minister said he is happy to see the Youth Mayors gaining invaluable experience by having a front-row seat to the inner workings of the local authorities and having the opportunity to see what “representing your fellow citizens” is really like.
“You are, therefore, being equipped, even at your tender ages, with many of the tools you will need for effective service. It is my fervent hope that many of your peers will also catch the spirit of service through local government and make our system richer and more dynamic through active participation,” he added.
The forum was held under the theme ‘Reigniting a Nation for Greatness through Local Government’.