Speaking at a parish forum organized by the Social Development Commission on Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Minister of Local Government the Honourable Noel Arscott encouraged citizens to play a more active role in the governance of their communities.
The Minister told persons gathered at the St. Hilda’s High School in Brown’s Town that there are several avenues through which they can contribute to the decision making process in their local jurisdiction. He highlighted the necessity for citizens to work with the St. Ann Parish Development Committee as it is a vehicle to be utilized by them to strengthen community development.
He also pointed out the need for citizens to fulfill their responsibilities as it relates to paying their property taxes as these are important revenues for local government. The citizens were reminded that property tax revenues pay for services such as garbage collection, streetlighting and the maintenance of minor roads and green spaces. Minister Arscott told the gathering that the Property Tax Arrears for the parish of St. Ann is $494,348,295.16 for the current financial year.
Another avenue by which citizens could participate in the development of their communities the Minister said, was in the maintenance of a clean and healthy environment. He charged citizens of the parish to clean up their communities while notifying them of plans to revise anti-litter fines. He said that people should take pride in their surroundings and expressed his aversion for persons who litter disposing their garbage in gullies and public spaces.
The Local Government Minister also took the opportunity to congratulate the Mayor, His Worship Cllr. Desmond Gilmore and the St Ann Parish Council on their efforts to improve citizens’ participation and collaboration in the affairs of the parish. He noted the work being done through the St. Ann Inter Agency Network for Transforming Social Services (SAINTSS) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lead project entitled “Enhancing Civil Society Partnership in Local Governance for Community Safety”. The latter forges partnerships between the Parish Council, the Police, the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Social Development Commission (SDC) in an effort to combat crime and violence.
The Minister affirmed that these projects demonstrate the power of stakeholder participation adding that parish fora such as this are equally important mechanisms for people to communicate and give feedback on issues affecting them “as there can be people without Government; but there cannot be Government without the people”.
The main address at this gathering was delivered by the Prime Minster of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller. This was the fourth in a series of parish Fora which begun in October 2012. The series is aimed at providing information on key aspects of national development relating to the Jamaican economy and governance issues, particularly at the local and parish levels. Other sessions have been held in St. Catherine, St. James and Clarendon.
Other officials who addressed the gathering included Dr. Dayton Campbell, MP North Western St. Ann, Sen. the Hon. Mark Golding, Minister of Justice and Dr. Dwayne Vernon, Executive Director Social Development Commission.