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EDITORIAL - Apply the boot to parish councils

Published:Wednesday | May 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The way, it seems, to get anything done at the parish councils is to give them hefty kicks up the rump. Continuously!

The proof is the progress that is being made in breaking the logjam in building approvals by the local government authorities, exemplified in data published by this newspaper, especially in relation to the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), the municipal body for the Jamaican capital.

For decades, those private builders and commercial developers committed to playing by the rules groaned under the lethargic, if not comatose, building-approval regime of the KSAC. Applications sometimes languished for years, compromising projects and costing people money and keeping labourers idle. The greater detriment of this inefficiency was to the national economy, which was robbed of investment for growth.

Something, however, changed recently.

In less than two months, since the end of February, the usually narcoleptic elected members of the KSAC and their plodding bureaucrats settled on at least 970, of which 707, or approximately 73 per cent, were in the cue for at least a year - and some far longer. Sixty-two per cent of the applications were approved, and 38 per cent either rejected or returned to their applicants for additional information or adjustments.

While the value of the approved projects was not immediately available, the good thing is that their sponsors can get on with them - investing capital that will create jobs and contribute to growth in the construction sector. The proposers of the others also know what they need to get them right.

All of this is positive for the Jamaican economy. And the good news is that the recent wakeful flurry was not limited to the building committee of the KSAC. It was the same in all the local-government authorities.

The difference is the pressure being felt by the central government under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to modernise the economy. So, the private sector has greater assurance, and leverage, in putting the boot to the Government. In the circumstance, the central government feels compelled to apply its own boot to the parish councils. The boot up the rear has worked.

FEWER than 100 applications left

In the case of the KSAC, its chairman, Angela Brown Burke, recently reported only 85 outstanding building applications, which, when added to the 970 already cleared, suggests there were 1,005 in the system. Given that 707 of these were more than a year old, it can be extrapolated that, in the year up to February, the KSAC received 348 applications, some of which were among those decided upon.

As it is, the KSAC is close to clearing the backlog. But that, we presume, is by use of an emergency settlement arrangement, the structure of which was not announced, and about whose sustainability we are bound to worry. For now, the KSAC should continue to clear the backlog, while it and other parish councils put in place transparent mechanisms to decide on building and development approvals within the promised three months.

In the meantime, it makes absolutely good sense to continue talking loudly to the parish councils to supplement the effort with an application of the boot where it is heard - lest they go asleep again.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.