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“Local Government: Creating A Legacy of Improved Social Services.”

The theme of this year’s celebration of Local Government and Community Month is a reflection of the impact and potential of the system of local government on every aspect of national life. It creates an opportunity to assess the work that we have done together over the last seven years to make clear and measurable improvements to the lives of our citizens. The theme is also a stirring reminder about our purpose, the reason why we serve.

The Old Testament book of Exodus refers to the seventh year as one of rest, following the previous six years of hard work and gathering the fruit of one’s labour. In the modern era however, this seventh year is for us, one of renewed dedication to service to our fellow citizens. They are demanding more of us as local elected representatives and as local administrators in our Municipal jurisdictions, and we must continue to answer the call. There is little time to rest. It is through hard work and perseverance that we have recorded significant improvements in the services offered by the Local Authorities and by our Agencies: the Social Development Commission, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and the Board of Supervision. Similarly, our citizens continue to benefit from innovative interventions created by this Administration such as the Municipal Social Assistance Programme, the Water Shops and the Youth Summer Employment Programme, which addresses their needs in their communities as well as their aspirations. My commitment on accepting duty as Minister in 2016, was to transform the image of Local Government through better governance and service provision, and to elevate it into respectability in the eyes of the Jamaican people. Now, seven years later, much has been done to achieve this objective. The processes of modernization and service improvement continued even through 2020 to 2022, two of the most challenging years that this country – and indeed the world – have ever experienced.

There is much of which we should be proud. At the same time, there is still much labour that we must carry out to cement the legacy of improved social services. One of these, which falls on all of us as servants within the local government system, is to impress on our people that their co-operation through personal responsibility, is as critical to social transformation as the services and resources that are, and will be provided to them through Local Government. Our fire statistics will plunge, if more of our citizens practice fire safety every day. The work of the NSWMA and the ODPEM will be even more effective, if there is less illegal dumping. As we continue to address the requirements of our people, we must rise to the challenge of imparting this vital message. The hands of local government must clap in rhythm with the hands of the citizens we serve.

Hon. Desmond McKenzie CD, MP, JP