“Local Government: Your Partner in Community Development.”
Members of the Local Government fraternity and my fellow Jamaicans:
Local Government Month is one of the most important highlights on the annual Local Government calendar. The aim of the Local Government Month celebration, generally, is to increase the awareness of Jamaican citizens about the importance of local government and good local governance in their day-to-day lives, usually under a specified theme.
This general goal is achieved through a series of celebratory activities to mark the month of November as Local Government Month. This year’s theme is Local Government: Your Partner in Community Development. This theme highlights two essential ideas underpinning the Local Government Reform Process, namely, partnership and community development.
The focus on these two key elements in the Reform process at this time in the nation’s history is significant. It coincides with the blossoming of a new and dynamic dispensation of renewed hope and promise, with the recent inauguration of The Honourable Andrew Holness as Jamaica’s ninth Prime Minister, and myself presiding over the Local Government Month celebration as Minister with responsibility for Local Government in a new Ministry under the Senior ministerial leadership of the Hon. Dr. Horace Chang. This leadership renewal at the national and local government levels should provide even greater impetus in advancing the Local Government Reform Agenda.
Local government reform involves the reorganization of the structure and administrative functions of the local authorities, to give them greater autonomy and control, so as to enable them to serve their communities more effectively and with greater efficiency.
Our theme for this year’s celebration strongly underscores the need to establish a true partnership relationship between the newly enhanced Local Government Authorities, and the different elements of civil society in order to realize the ideal of sustainable community development. The Reform process will facilitate the empowerment of citizens to participate in and influence the process of local governance. Greater self-management and accountability for determining their own destinies and solving their own problems will be the result of this.
Increasingly, our citizens are demanding more and better quality service underscored by transparency and accountability, and a forum for enhancing their participation in local governance. They are the reason for our existence and we are heeding the call.
Our responsiveness to this urgent call is evidenced by the significant progress the Department of Local Government has made in advancing the Reform Legislative Agenda as well other crucial Reform Issues.
Broad consensus has been reached on the proposal that local government should be entrenched in the Jamaican Constitution. The timetable for including this Reform Agenda item in the Constitution Amendments Programme is very advanced. Importantly too, the three Strategic Laws critical to the Legal Reform Agenda, in the areas of Finance, Governance and Human Resources have moved from Cabinet Submission status to drafting status.
The National Building Act has been tabled in Parliament and a Joint Select committee has been established chaired by the Hon. Dr. Chang to review the bill and report back to Parliament.
Similar progress have been made on other proposed Reform Agenda items including the Municipal Court Proposal, the Financial Management & Accounting System, the Direct Financing Programme, the Organizational Review Scheme, and the role of Local Authorities in the Public Sector Transformation Unit.
I wish to take this opportunity to encourage all citizens to partner with their respective Parish Councils in achieving sustainable community development. I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to sit on various Council Committees of your respective Parish Development Committees.
Continued structured development of community stakeholders has continued, led by us in Local Government. The chairpersons of the PDCs have been mandated to forge a stronger relationship with the Local Authorities, play a greater role in the sustainable development planning of their communities as well as have a deeper involvement in projects that involve public/private partnership. All citizens can play a part, and should.
Let me congratulate each Local Authority for their commitment to Local government reform and for their work in developing sustainable communities. You have overcome many challenges, but have remained undaunted. Our challenge now is to sustain the developments we have realized and to accelerate the process of local government reform. Local Government Month is a great opportunity to highlight your roles and functions and to be innovative in educating and involving your communities. Notwithstanding the challenges we currently face, we are excited about the prospects for realizing our Local Government Reform vision of achieving sustainable development in our communities and thereby the nation.
Therefore, let us move ahead with renewed commitment, as individuals, as a team, as communities and as a nation and effectively embrace our roles as local government leaders, practitioners, and civil society partners. Let us continue the thrust towards achieving good local governance by embracing principles of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, citizen’s participation and improved service delivery for a sustained democratic local government system in Jamaica for all Jamaicans.
Thank You and God bless us all as we celebrate another local government month.
Hon. Shahine Robinson MP
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Housing, Environment, Water & Local Government