Reformed Local Government will Benefit Communities Directly – Professor Nettleford

Chair of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on Local Government Reform, Professor Rex Nettleford has said that a reformed Local Government should allow for the distribution of revenues to directly benefit the communities from which they were gleaned.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank, in Kingston, Professor Nettleford, pointed out that while some amount of revenue goes into the Consolidated Fund, which is a source of financing for Parish Councils, there is need for it to “go back to those communities to ensure that some basic needs are met, such as good roads and housing.”
Expounding, he cited the fact that tourist areas attract a great deal of revenue and therefore, “It is most important that we ensure that the people who have been largely responsible for attracting such funds become direct beneficiaries of that funding.” Continuing, Professor Nettleford said, “Just think of a chambermaid in a deluxe hotel, tending a room for our visitors, then she has to leave and go to a shack not very far away.”
“That disjuncture is just too much for her to cope with, and in a funny kind of way it will in fact dumb her spirit and rob her of any enthusiasm for the job. So you get the reaction at the workplace without really knowing what it is,” he added.
The NAC Chairman revealed that the Council, which has studied the operations of the local authorities, has made recommendations to address this and other areas of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the Local Government system.
The recommendations, which are contained in the 2007 Interim Report on Local Government Reform, address the areas of: Democracy, Participation and Accountability; Finance and Funding of Local Government; Accounting and Financial Management; and the Structure and Functions of Local Government.
The report makes strong recommendations for the entrenchment of Local Government in the Jamaican Constitution; the formulation of a National Policy on Decentralization; as well as the retention of the Parish Development Committees (PDC) model as the primary vehicle for facilitating participatory local governance.
Also contained in the report is the recommendation for a plan of action to achieve gender equity in respect of local governance representation and for local government to play a lead role in the empowerment of all marginalized groups.
Professor Nettleford noted that among the benefits to emanate from a system optimized along these lines would be the increased participation of women and youth in governance processes.
Stressing the value of women to society, and their potential to play a vital role in local governance, he said they “have long been in the history of Jamaica, and.are not only the burden bearers, but the culture bearers, as these are the ones who have to nurture and have become central to the socialization of Jamaican people.”
Likewise, he pointed out that young people had a more significant role to play, and were therefore given consideration in the recommendations of the report.
“We have to keep reminding the young that youth is a temporary state of affairs, but they will always be with us and that in fact they have to be prepared to acquire the sort of skills that will have them cope with the problems and challenges as they arise,” Professor Nettleford stated.
He further explained that in seeking to bring about social transformation it was important that the capacity of communities be built to facilitate the involvement of everyone in the provision of services such as health, education, and community development.
In this vein he said, “although we speak of Local Government, [the NAC] is even more concerned with local governance [which is] the mobilization of the creative energies of our people where they live and have their being.”
As such, he said that the furtherance of the reform process, which commenced in 1992, would see the establishment of an “appropriate institutional framework and system of governance and government that will facilitate effective and efficient action.”
Meanwhile the Council has conducted a series of consultations on the report with stakeholders, to consolidate the recommendations made. Among the sectors consulted were Local Authorities, Parish Development Committees, community groups, youth groups, gender and women’s groups, and the media.
A final report will be produced and submitted to the Minister of Local Government and Environment, Dean Peart after which it will be deliberated by a Parliamentary Committee, before its recommendations are implemented.
“We would like to feel that this is a contribution to national development,” said Professor Nettleford, noting that the empowerment of local government was not in opposition to central government.
He said good governance constitutes co-operation between both central and Local Government and that “we have to find the integrative elements which will ensure that it becomes not simply efficient, but effective.”

JIS Social