More local and central government coordination needed

Letters to the Editor

More local and central government coordination needed

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The Local Government Act, 2016 says, “Local authorities will be granted greater scope and autonomy in the management of local affairs, with an expanded and more holistic mandate for the good governance, sustainable development and maintenance of good civic order within their respective jurisdictions, and for connected matters.” We must question the Local Government Ministry and municipalities on what this means in a practical sense for jamaica, especially during this pandemic.

Our economic realities suggest that genuine local autonomy is almost a pipe dream, even as local government bears the responsibility for implementation of central policy. Yet, there seems to be little attention given to the readiness and capacity of the municipalities to not only provide their services, but produce reliable governance.

Local government has long been losing credibility among the populace with its core functions being overshadowed by inept leadership, corruption, and just a general lack of vision. Many have argued that the current local model needs tweaking, as 228 municipal councillors may be overkill for a small island nation, and some suggest county governments instead.

Whether you agree or disagree with the recent decision by the Cabinet and central government to continue the curfew method of 'controlling' mass gathering in public spaces throughout the holiday shopping period given the pandemic, the fact is that the municipal corporations (formerly parish councils) now have greater responsibility of managing towns and commercial areas for the safety of the general public, as well as shoppers and vendors. With the yearly Christmas showdown between the local authorities and market vendors about who is licensed to vend and where vending is allowed being conflated with curfew policing, should we expect more manpower and resources being channelled to assist mayors to manage their towns?

Prime ministers and their Cabinets often tell us how consultative they have been and how they seek to have participatory governance. Civil society, private sector leaders and churches are normally at the top of this consultative process, but where do the local leadership inclusive of mayors and councillors or caretakers, custodes, and even community leaders across the political divide, fit in?

Many countries, including the US, have this practice of the executive branch of government having regular meetings with local government leadership.

We know a joined-up governance approach is being taken to combat COVID-19, but we need to get a clear indication that the political leadership in charge of day-to-day implementation is being heard.

Mario R Boothe

Youth and governance advocate

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