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Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has underscored the pivotal role of local government in Jamaica and emphasised the urgent need to counter prevailing negative perceptions surrounding local governance.

Addressing the monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation on April 11, Minister McKenzie cited the low voter turnout in the recent local government elections as a barometer of public sentiment towards local governance.

He noted that while some criticisms may be warranted, others stem from misconceptions or skepticism about the efficacy of local government.

The Minister said that Jamaica is one of the few nations in the region with a local government system, which, he pointed out, is critical to the day-to-day lives of citizens.

“I challenge anybody … to show me one aspect of life in Jamaica that local government is not involved in – our roads, our markets, buildings, our fire services, poor relief,” he said.

“It is important that we speak volumes about our achievements in local government, about the things…that we have been able to accomplish,” Mr. McKenzie emphasised.

He urged councillors to reflect on their responsibilities and to work towards upholding the local government framework.

“The question must be asked of us as councillors…are we doing what we are supposed to do? We have to demonstrate a certain level of responsibility in executing our duties to the people, not just here in St James, but right across the country,” he pointed out.

Turning to the work underway to develop the Charles Gordon Market in the parish, Minister McKenzie urged the St James Municipal Corporation to engage with the various stakeholders to ensure that the facility is utilised as intended.

“The work has started already and when the expansion is completed, it can’t be that [the Government] spends … in excess of $100 million to renovate the Charles Gordon Market and at the end of the day the market is empty, and you can’t get access to the road because the vendors find it more convenient to sell on the road,” the Minister pointed out.

“So, I am urging councillors to engage the people in your divisions who are vendors and even urge the shoppers not to engage with those who are selling in areas that are not designated for vending,” he said.