Thu | May 23, 2019

Develop rural towns to address urban drift, McKenzie tells mayors

Published:Tuesday | April 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and community development (left), listens attentively to Senator Delroy Williams (right), mayor of Kingston, as he talks with Wayne Messam (second right), mayor of Miramar, Florida, USA and Michael Belnavis, mayor of St.Ann, during the Inaugural Conference of Caribbean Mayors held at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies yesterday.

Jamaica's urban centres, like those in other English-speaking Caribbean countries, are fast becoming overpopulated as a result of the movement of people from rural areas, thus putting a strain on social amenities and physical infrastructure, says Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

McKenzie told a gathering of regional mayors in Kingston that while urban drift continues to be a challenge worth inspecting, it was now time that local governments in the region began to look at the development of semi-urban spaces to tackle the growing problem.

"It is very important that as a region we look at how to negate the flight to urban centres, whether or not we start developing towns and communities to make them into semi-urban centres," said McKenzie at the first Caribbean Conference of Mayors held at the University of The West Indies, Mona Regional Headquarters yesterday.

"This is one of the things that this administration is looking at; how we can now start to create more cities to prevent this influx from coming into Kingston, Spanish Town, Portmore and places like Montego Bay and Falmouth," McKenzie told The Gleaner.

He added that one of the ways in which regional local governments could avoid urban drift was to sever ties to the financially overburdened central government to become independent authorities in the generation of their own revenue.


Generate revenue


'It is time that we extricate ourselves from the pockets of central government by becoming more relevant when it comes on to generating our own sources of revenue," advised McKenzie.

The three-day conference was conceptualised by Kingston Mayor, Senator Delroy Williams, and is being held under the theme 'Honouring the Past, Embracing a Smart Future'.

Williams noted that while the redevelopment of Kingston remains a dream in many respects, it was important to make Kingston a smart city.

"I think that at the moment, all the factors to transform the City of Kingston is coming together at the right time," stated Williams.

He also pointed to the protection of the shoreline as another vital part of plans in transforming the city, noting that this was already under way.

"Safeguarding the shoreline against further erosion in certain places will begin in a year's time and ... this will aid in the redevelopment of downtown," said Williams.