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Commentary: A nation trying to survive: Jamaica must focus on local government growth
Published on February 12, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Mario Boothe

There is a critical error in Jamaica’s design that has surprisingly gained attention in the public domain with fewer viable options slowly going down the drain, as we continue towards that dark hole of “Greece-Dom”, the Chicago Tribune had sketched it out relating to “irresponsible stewardship” but there is a deeper and more rooted issue than “irresponsibility” that must come to the forefront and be dealt with in a manner that is wholesome, with no hold backs on the part of government, including the opposition, before we proceed to attempt fixing the economy or anything else with bold long term measures.

Mario Boothe is a young aspiring political analyst, with a growing blog readership. He has been involved in the Jamaican political environment with his involvement in political organizations and groups. He has obtained an associate’s degree in hospitality and tourism management, majoring in travel and tourism.
This design flaw has been discussed by central government with countless reports and proposals spun to satisfy the calls and wails for its implementation, as the reforms are necessary and must go deeper than simple brush overs. This fix requires power to be siphoned off central government and be channelled closer to the people, to open government, to more accountability and criticism, and demands of us to expect from government only as much as we put in.

This ultimate blooper in our 50-year-old, politically independent democracy is one that we might not have noticed, overlooked or just forgot along the way, but it is critical to our development as a nation with the 2030 goal of developed nation status – unfortunately, it took us this long to realize that we are A-N-T-T-S (A Nation Trying To Survive).

If we had developed our constitution and later development policies around the acronym ANTTS, we would be so much better off as a nation and people. Ants in reality are very productive and successful insects that are known to inhabit all but one of the continents of the world, they have a mechanism that is truly reputable, that involves thousands and sometimes millions of ants with different “jobs” and “purposes”, actually coordinating around a single purpose of bettering the colony and ensuring the future for the next generation. This idea of a generalized and centralized nation could carry us so far but at this point in time, we need a new reality check, particularly in a small nation with tons of problems.

Mobilizing Government

The prime minister in December 2003 (Observer), as local government minister under the P.J. Patterson administration can be recalled as saying:

"Local government reform is important, and at every sector in Jamaica, we need high calibre leadership and people who are courageous enough to stand up and be counted for what they believe in -- people of integrity who are not afraid of hard work," she said.
As Minister she said local governance was all about reducing the control of central government over local affairs and empowering local communities to take the major decisions affecting their well-being and development.

"We have to get back to basics. Part of the problems we are having and the challenges in this country today is that we are not putting enough focus and attention on our communities. What we need to do is to empower the people so that the communities will have strong parishes and that will lead to a much stronger and prosperous Jamaica," Simpson Miller said.

She said that those who serve at the local government level were far better equipped to hear what people were saying and be more responsive to their needs, adding that local government reform process was designed to lead to even greater levels of responsiveness and accountability, with public policy becoming more in line with public preferences.

"Everywhere, the evidence is piling up that central government is becoming too large and impersonal to be truly responsive to the needs of communities by means of centrally directed policies and programmes,” said the PM Simpson-Miller.

She mentioned a similar comment in 2004 (George Headly, The Gleaner):

"Communities will be empowered, since through the appropriate local machinery, Government answers directly to the people. Space is created for communities to have greater interest and more meaningful participation in local governance, but citizens need to become more community conscious and build effective community organisations which will help their political representatives to be more effective," said Mrs Simpson Miller.

She noted that there were signs all over the island pointing to the fact that the more organised communities tend to command the most attention and respect. She also said, "the more organised is the community, the less opportunity provided for criminals and that the more protection is provided for children and young people."

PM Simpson-Miller knows that this system error is a sinkhole, and we must take care to at this problem structure problem, as our local small business are the back of the nation and these we cannot in our right minds allow to falter because we failed to act. The government needs to mobilize itself and apply itself outside of Kingston and Gordon House other than social programmes and culture development – the rural areas are begging for the Kingston experience so they don’t have to actually travel to Kingston for government business. Kingston is not Jamaica.
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