Tue | Mar 21, 2023

Raymond Pryce | A new paradigm needed for Portmore

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2023 | 12:50 AM
An aerial view of Portmore.
An aerial view of Portmore.
Raymond Pryce
Raymond Pryce

Just to be clear, all that is needed to establish Portmore or any other area in Jamaica as a parish is a simple majority in both Houses of Parliament voting to support the Review of the Counties and Parishes (Amendment) Bill 2022. Based on steps already taken, there can be no real doubt about the intention of the Holness Administration’s intent to create a 15th parish in Jamaica.

Notwithstanding, the Portmore Municipal Corporation (PMC) has commenced a series of public consultations within communities across the municipality to discuss the implications of the proposed bill and its implications for which a formal response from the PMC has been requested by the Local Government Ministry,


The Memorandum of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states: “This represents a historic milestone as it will be the first time that a parish is being established in post-colonial Jamaica.” That is certainly true. However, it continues: “It is envisioned that the designation of parish status for the Municipality will strengthen its lobbying capacity; empower its citizens to more independently chart the course of development (rather than being subject to the decisions being made for the parish of St Catherine, of which the Municipality is currently a part); and facilitate the opportunity to autonomously manage any allocated resources.”

It is at this point that the rationale being purported by the Government weakens. The question arises: Which of the other 14 parishes or even the famed Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation has attained real autonomy to determine the developmental path for its residents or have policy authority and control over the land area within its boundaries?

Despite the stated intention to be “post-colonial”, the Administration may instead be the purveyor of a lost opportunity rather than to fundamentally change the tides of governance in Jamaica. A true post-colonial approach would include a decision to review the current administrative arrangements at the local-government level as a Jamaica Sixty Legacy project. That should begin with a review of the county demarcations. It is arguable that retaining the current three counties provides no useful purpose. There is no actual connection between the state apparatus and the current county boundaries despite the use of a ‘regional’ approach across government. For example, in the National Security, Education, Health and Solid Waste Management sectors, there are a slew of regions, areas, or divisions that blur, if not totally erase, county boundaries. The opportunity exists to reconcile this irregularity and to revisit not only county boundaries, but also to have a modern look at the designations based on empirical criteria or variables that enhance governance and optimises access to public goods and services.


The present 2003 Portmore City Municipality model, for example, brought into being is the Direct Election of Mayor. That has become a celebrated design, a first within the English-speaking Caribbean and one that has withstood political swings at the national level. Then there is the case of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, which merged the local administration of both parishes a century ago.

Surely there is a wealth of information and knowledge that has been garnered over that time that can provide insight as to a way forward for local governance in Jamaica. When the arguments for the KSAMC’s establishment are reviewed – the same scenario could be said to exist currently between the parishes of St Thomas and Portland. Or even St Ann and Trelawny. In the case of the latter, there are real prospects of a merger with St James and even Hanover in a new county made logical by the sheer power and value of investments into contiguous tourist resort towns that also provide modern marketing opportunities for Jamaica’s tourism product internationally.


For certainly that new county, and the road network within it, the dependence on the Donald Sangster International Airport and the existence of mega-companies that support the logistics for the Tourism Product across the transport, entertainment, and accommodation sectors would be of tremendous value for planning and development within a tourism-fuelled “County Economy”.

If one listens to the respective presidents of the Chambers of Commerce in those parishes, it is obvious that they, basically, coordinate their statements and affairs as if they were already so designated. This is a testimony of the private sector and multistakeholder partnership acumen that has evolved in that section of the island, especially when all stakeholder groups worked cooperatively to sustain Jamaica’s tourism product during the COVID pandemic.


We could use this opportunity to consider the redesign of counties built around ‘Engines of Growth’ or to have new administrative mergers of parishes with an anaemic capacity to generate sufficient resources individually. Approaches like these would surely enhance the quality of life and earning potential of residents within those areas, make easier the allocation of resources in support of the developmental needs of citizens, and concurrently determine whether replicating the model of direct election of mayors throughout all municipal corporations would yield the benefits across Jamaica that it has in Portmore.

If such a comprehensive approach were being advanced by the Government, then truly, Jamaicans would have a sense of ownership in the design of a new Jamaica that places people participation at the centre of policymaking. A real post-colonial approach supports the work of the new Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs. That ministry has as its mandate, among other things, the design of a modern Constitution for Jamaica. The time is not yet spent for the Holness Administration to ‘wheel and come again’ on this one.

Raymond Pryce is the opposition spokesman on information and chairman of People’s National Party East Central St Catherine. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com