Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Letter of the Day | Autonomy for local government

Published:Tuesday | November 15, 2016 | 11:00 AM

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to the proverbial fire of public discourse that describes local government as wasted resources, trivial, corrupt and outdated.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