Au­ton­omy for lo­cal gov­ern­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE EDITOR, Sir:

JA­MAICANS ARE now pre­par­ing for an­other round of delayed lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions that seemed set to be kicked fur­ther down the road by an­other ad­min­is­tra­tion that would rather have enough political mileage on their op­po­nents be­fore al­low­ing Ja­maicans to ex­er­cise their fun­da­men­tal demo­cratic rights.

This rit­ual of post­pon­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions is now truly sec­ond na­ture for our political lead­ers, who rel­ish the power to ma­nip­u­late elec­tion dates as al­lowed by the weak­ened, an­cient frame­work of a Con­sti­tu­tion by which they now rule.

This den­i­gra­tion of lo­cal gov­er­nance by those in cen­tral gov­ern­ment is fuel to the prover­bial fire of pub­lic dis­course that de­scribes lo­cal gov­ern­ment as wasted re­sources, triv­ial, cor­rupt and out­dated. Those de­scrip­tions, in fact, are an ac­cu­rate de­pic­tion of what the lo­cal gov­ern­ment sys­tem that now ex­ists has de­vel­oped into af­ter In­de­pen­dence, with al­most 400 years of history in Ja­maica. We’ve seen and heard news sto­ries about the cor­rupt prac­tices in the mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions that are usu­ally linked to the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of state funds or par­ti­san dis­tri­bu­tion of work based on party loy­alty.

There is lit­tle trust in the abil­ity of lo­cal gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives to suc­cess­fully lobby on be­half of their con­stituents. Many still see the mem­ber of par­lia­ment (MP) as ‘the big man’ who wields greater in­flu­ence and has more ac­cess to state fund­ing. Many coun­cil­lors also are ex­pected to per­son­ally fund their di­vi­sion. It is a widely known fact that these lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives are of­ten small en­trepreneurs with strong in­flu­ence in the com­mu­nity.

WITH­OUT GOV­ERN­MENT IN­FLU­ENCE

But if the lo­cal coun­cils were, in­deed, more ca­pa­ble of self-fund­ing with­out much in­flu­ence from cen­tral gov­ern­ment, this would re­move the need to heav­ily rely on MPs.

Also, our one-size-fits-all ap­proach to lo­cal gov­ern­ment also gives rise to in­ept per­for­mances. Our coun­cils must gov­ern within very lim­ited bound­aries of by-laws that may or may not suit their lo­calised is­sues. The frame­work of laws these mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions are al­lowed to im­ple­ment must be broad­ened to al­low for more ef­fec­tive ex­e­cu­tion of national poli­cies.

I must call upon the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­view Sec­tion 18, sub­sec­tions (3)& (4) un­der Part II of the Lo­cal Gov­er­nance Act 2016, which deals with the im­peach­ment of a mayor. The above-men­tioned sub­sec­tions put the fi­nal de­ci­sion in the hands of Par­lia­ment – un­der­min­ing a process that is ini­ti­ated at the lo­cal level. I, there­fore, sub­mit that a re­call op­tion re­place this back­ward step for lo­cal gov­er­nance re­form. MARIO BOOTHE Ad­vo­cater, Blog­ger m.raphael.b@gmail.com

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