Local Government Elections Postponed
The recent announcement by the government that Local Government Elections will be postponed for a period of 18 months has confirmed that local government has lost its relevance and importance in nation and community building.
Once believed to be the closest arm of government to the people and an important pillar in the social transformation processes , it is now perceived to be an institution that is being used a political football , a corrupt entity for political activists and activism .This can only weaken further an already loose and weak structure of governance as it exist today in the local authorities and municipalities.
Dismantling of Local Government Ministry
The mortification of Local Government and governance started with consistent postponement of the elections over the years and the melt down of its functions by the Seaga administration in the 80’s and the dismantling of the local government Ministry by the Bruce Golding led government.
The general population has lost confidence in the ability of Local Authorities and Municipalities to effectively improve the quality of life of the people under its jurisdiction and to chart a positive course for urban and rural renewal.
Local Government Reforms
Let us not be fooled about local Government reform and bills before parliament to make it more effective, they speak of nothing about improvement of service delivery and how to improve governance.
They have not looked at the local laws and by-laws that were enacted to to make Local Government and governance effective, they have not researched those laws, improve on them as do other countries such as Scotland, Canada and South Africa that have strong and vibrant local authorities and municipalities.
Local government in Canada and Scotland own and operate international airports, build public sector housing, employ teachers within their municipalities, manage giant water schemes and other mega projects and social interventions. Look at our status here: we cannot even effectively operate our own homes for our infirmed, or provide safe domestic water for our rural families.
Jamaican Politicians Who Served In Local Government
Local Government should not have found itself in such an embarrassing situation of non-relevance, as sitting in parliament are individuals who have served at the local level including, The Prime Minister, Pernel Charles, Luther Buchanan, Hugh Buchanan, Daryl Vaz, Richard Parchment, Richard Azan, Collin Fagan, Dr Andrew Wheathley, Desmond Mckenzie, Denise Daley.
If any of these individuals were serious about Local Government they would have been fighting for legislative changes, move private members motions to make Local Government more relevant and effective as a body that contributes to the improvement in quality of life and community building. They simple just sit and watch, as government and opposition run “rough shod” over the entity and use it as a political football.
Present Status of the Main Functions of Local Government
A) CEMETERIES…..90% of all cemeteries are in worse conditions than they were before independence. Some can now be regarded as wooded area where the dead have been denied the dignity of a peaceful and undisturbed rest.
B) PAROCHIAL ROADS……..majority in a state of disrepair and neglect with most beyond the state of repair. Parochial Revenue Fund that should have been used to effect repairs have been channeled and siphoned off to watering trough for political activists and corrupt politicians.
C) MINOR WATER SUPPLY…..major source of water borne illness in rural families, underfunded and unsupervised. Bacterial and fecal load in supply is the highest among all water installation in the island.
D) STREET LIGHTS……majority in defective conditions. most communities are only served with 10% of it street light requirement yet local government owes billions in arrears .
E) DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND MITIGATION…..has never been properly funded, proactive to meet its mandate.
F) POOR RELIEF……have been left at the mercy of benevolence , volunteerism ,sponsors. Department severely handicapped by a lack of funding.
G) PROPERTY TAXES…..major cause for concern, most of collection are from lower and middle income property owners. Majority of larger owners are severely delinquent. Majority are not even on the tax role.
H) MARKETS…most if not all operating at a loss . Physical plant in total disrepair and lack a clean bill of health. Earning may be 25% of its capacity.
I) PHYSICAL PLANNING….lacks teeth and the will to effect it mandate. Majority of Jamaicans and those in the diaspora continue to build without the requisite permit. Squatting is also on the increase
Incompetent Councillors and Mayors
The above status in perspective have proven that is on an accelerated downward trajectory of governance relevance and service and best be scrapped to prevent further drain on the public purse. This is further compounded by the Local Authorities and Municipalities being served by incompetent concillors and mayors who lack the educational competence, technical skills and other abilities to plan, execute development for their communities and parish .
THE SDC’S ROLE IN COMMUNITY BUILDING AND SOCIAL REFORM
This has to be on a short, medium and long term basis and should be built on four sound pillars.
1) PROCEEDS FROM DIVESTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSETS TO FUND THE SDC
2) REASSIGNMENT OF SOME CORE FUNCTIONS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO SDC AND OTHER MINISTRIES
3)LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK TO FACILITATE COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION TO BE A PART OF THE SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION PROCESS.
4)RE BRANDING THE SDC AS THE VEHICLE FOR SOCIAL REFORM (INCLUDING POVERTY ERADICATION), COMMUNITY BUILDING, RURAL AND INNER-CITY RENEWAL.
The four pillars give a bottoms-up approach to community building and poverty eradication a mandate which the Local government has failed to achieve .