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Executive Director of the Social Development Commission (SDC), Dr. Dwayne Vernon, has underscored the entity’s vision of becoming Jamaica’s leading community development agency and, in the process, helping to facilitate good governance, economic prosperity, and a sustainable environment across the society.

Speaking at the first in a series of Parish Meetings, jointly hosted with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development at the Jose Marti High School in St. Catherine, recently, Dr. Vernon contended that creation of an environment, which enables persons to participate in the community development process, would contribute significantly to realizing the goal of Jamaica’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030.

“Through this medium, Jamaica will (attain developed country status and) become the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business. Each community has to become that place of choice; the vision is not for some (persons), it is for us all.

“The SDC’s central role is, therefore, to use an integrated community development strategy to develop and execute meaningful partnerships at the community and national levels that identify, support and, importantly, implement key critical programmes that improve the quality of life,” the Executive Director argued.

In this regard, he welcomed the wide cross-section of stakeholders who attended the inaugural meeting, while noting that it was only through “collective efforts” that “favourable outcomes” could be secured for citizens.

Dr. Vernon also cited several priority areas, which he contended, would lend support to the SDC’s activities. These, he informed, include: promulgation of proposed strategic laws for local government reform, particularly the Local Governance Act; strengthening of the local authorities; and undertaking work, which will facilitate the participatory governance framework that will “empower citizens to realize their fullest potential”.

In arguing that every Jamaican should be able to access and benefit from quality services, the Executive Director said it is for this reason why the SDC is also committed to building partnerships with the service providers through a network of inter-agency committees in all parishes.

While noting that resources might be scarce, Dr. Vernon, nonetheless, assured that “we are very optimistic (and) we are certain that we who work together…can enhance (the) welfare (of citizens) to improve…outcomes (in order to) grow ourselves out of debt, (among other challenges)”.

The meeting was one in a series of fora, to be held under the theme: ‘Government and Governance,’ which will provide Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and other members of the Cabinet and Government, with the opportunity to engage the public, in discussion, on a range of topical issues.

The fora will also provide an opportunity for relevant government agencies to provide updates on programmes and initiatives, specific to the local and parish levels.