KINGSTON, Jamaica— Member of Parliament for Manchester North West, Mikael Phillips, is calling for rural MPs to be allocated more resources in part because of their larger constituencies.
Phillips, who made the call during his recent contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate (SOC) in the House of Representatives, also wants an increase in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). He noted that the fund has not seen an increase in the 10 years since he was first elected to Parliament.
With the lack of resources, Phillips argued that the annual budgeting process was one of “taxation without representation, with taxpayers yet to enjoy the true benefit of their taxation”.
The Opposition MP pointed out that while the only opportunity that backbenchers and other members of the House have to effect change within the next budget cycle was to participate in the SOC Debate, the process does not move the dial in any way, shape, or form.
“It does not put anyone of us in any better position to represent our people. Our people expect much more from us, a system of governance that works for all," he lamented.
“What we need is a system that is equitable, one that works for all. We want to see a system that works efficiently and effectively for the people we represent, no matter the constituency or the Member of Parliament. Jamaicans want to see the Government working for them, a system that works, and a politics of change,” said Phillips.
His vision for Jamaica is one where state agencies undertake programmes that foster sustainable development.
“That will push the agenda of a better Jamaica forward. It will remove the idea of a culture that constituents now have of a Member of Parliament, who is now seen as a welfare officer, doctor, undertaker, NWA (National Works Agency) officer, miracle worker and the list goes on. Today, we are seen as the person to give out a little drain cleaning or bushing work, we have constituents cussing you when the bush starts to 'lock up the road' and potholes have not been attended to in years”.
Continuing, Phillips said: “We have a system that is broken and not working for the masses. Just imagine, if we had a system that is better financed and constructed for routine maintenance on our roadways, with scheduled d-bushing programmes and a consistent check on quality assurances for work performed. This would certainly make our people better off”.
Phillips argued that if the NWA utilised its parish and regional offices to do more routine assessments and make recommendations, with proper financing more work would get done.
“But the system that is now in place is one where some of us are at the mercy of Government Ministers and if that minister does not find favor in you, 'dawg nyam' you supper,” Phillips stated.
Meanwhile, Phillips lamented that the CDF of $20 million per annum for each MP has remained the same since he was elected in 2012. During that time he said “the needs have increased, the wants have swelled”.
“In these 10 years, inflation has increased by approximately 30-40 per cent and in 2022 we are still being allocated the same $20 million. The only tool we have to respond to the plight and needs of our constituents has not changed for the last 10 years, and that is a travesty,” Phillips added.
He also repeated his argument that rural constituencies should not be treated in the same way as urban constituencies.
He argued that: “Half-Way Tree is not Mile Gully (Manchester), and Waterhouse is not Junction (St Elizabeth). Even though there is a difference in population density in the urban constituencies, rural constituencies in many instances are four times the size of urban constituencies. The needs are different, but agencies respond differently (more favourably) to urban centres than they do to rural or deep rural communities”.