GROW-JLP-Website-Banner-2014.jpg
Stand-JLP-Website-Banner-2014.jpg
Build-JLP-Website-Banner-2016.jpg

Sectoral Debates 2008 - The Hon. Robert Montague

Release Date: 
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - 13:30

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Mister Speaker let me begin this afternoon by acknowledging my creator the Lord God Almighty, for this is the day that He hath made and we need to rejoice and be glad in it; and I am certainly glad to be alive to witness this day for many reasons; chief of which is to be the voice of the people of Western St. Mary in this Honourable House for the first time in my eighteen years of political sojourn.

Making all this possible with the help of the Almighty is the formidable team of my constituents especially my Councillors: Michael Belnavis, Doreen Hutchinson, Jason James, Murdel McKenzie and Bruce Farrell, who harboured no lesser aspirations for me than to see me stand here today. To Mrs. Hyacinth Knight, a former Member of Parliament, who stood with me and campaigned relentlessly, to her and her family, I am truly appreciative. I am indeed blessed.

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate you on your election to the Chair and thank the staff of the House for their guidance and support.

To my esteemed colleagues in this House, our interaction over the last ten months has taught me much in the cut and thrust of our various debates on issues of national importance. I look forward to engaging in more of these spirited exchanges in the years to come.

Today marks a very significant milestone in my personal development and political career and I use it to extend special thanks to my family and friends for their unwavering support, advice, belief in me and commitment to the vision I share to serve this country at the highest level and in the best way I know how.

To my Director General Mr. Devon Rowe and the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Patricia Sinclair-McCalla, the directors and staff of the Department of Local Government thanks for staying the course to see the reform process enter its most decisive phase – Time for Action.

To my Special Assistant – Mrs. Chloe HoSang, to Josselle Laing, Latoya McKoy, Maxine Riley and Secretary Keisha Pennant, thanks for being there for me while straddling and balancing the work of constituency and government.

Mr. Speaker, the vineyard has many workers at varying levels and all should be acknowledged accordingly. I therefore pay special thanks to all Mayors, Councillors and staff in the Local Authorities as well as the heads of agencies, chairpersons of the respective boards and members who have consented to serve under this local government portfolio.

Special mention must be made of my Leader and Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding for investing his confidence in me - if only for 2 years - by way of assigning me this portfolio.

Mr. Speaker, to my immediate family although not all are politically involved, I must acknowledge their support, and acknowledge the matriarch of the family, Aunt Joyce. Also my friend and brother Dwight Brady, who cut short his vacation in South Africa to be here today.

But Mr. Speaker, as grateful as I am today, I am saddened, sad, Sir, that my parents are not here today, to offer their support.

I know my father would be the proudest man if he were alive. But it is my mother most of all I know who would have wanted to be here. She has long dreamt this dream; she has been my rock, my greatest supporter and my best friend. Oh how I wish, she was here to witness her ‘wash belly’ addressing this Honourable House. Whether I did good or bad today, she would still be proud.

Mr. Speaker, I know that somehow in spirit they are here but I still miss them.

Mr. Speaker, nevertheless, I will soldier on. Again, I am indeed grateful to all as we continue to empower our citizens and deepen democracy and good governance at the local level through decisive action. To God be the glory great things He hath done.

CONSTITUENCY HIGHLIGHTS - WESTERN ST. MARY

Mr. Speaker while I am at it, in terms of acknowledgements, I crave your indulgence and that of this honourable house as I seek to highlight the constituency of Western St. Mary, the first constituency in which English was spoken in Jamaica, at Rio Nuevo. It also had Jamaica’s first Ice Factory at Fontabelle, and first all-inclusive hotel for couples, at Couples Tower Isle.

To my opponent Delano Franklyn, I must thank him for a well run campaign. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, in the same breath, I must pay tribute to Mr. Carlton Cole my campaign manager and his campaign management team. The workers, runners, indoor/outdoor agents, supervisors, presiding officer, poll clerks, returning officers a big thank you. They are also instrumental in my being here.

To all listeners on Jamaica’s newest radio, JET FM 88.7 in Western St. Mary, a good howdy.

Although St. Mary has carried the dubious distinction of being the poorest parish in Jamaica for several years, I am proud to state this afternoon that I represent a constituency, steeping in history and bursting with possibilities that has emerged from this shadow and is well on its way to being a parish that boasts the first Digital Town Hall.

Mr. Speaker, half of my constituency is deeply rural and the primary activity is agriculture, the other half is along the coast with sophisticated urban outlook and feel. Tourism and trade are the major activities. As a matter of fact, Ocho Rios’ best hotels are in St. Mary.

Education

Mr. Speaker, whether rural or urban, the people of Western St. Mary still possess a generosity of spirit and abundance of kindness and the most genuine of Jamaican smile.

Our greatest challenge is literacy and education. We currently have a 34 per cent rate of illiteracy and we are determined to correct this shortcoming. We were all born illiterate; we do not have to die illiterate.

Our efforts at this Mr. Speaker, shows where we have entered into agreement with the company, ‘Head Space Jamaica’, that is producing for us DVDs with literacy lessons to be distributed across the constituency. This programme, is widely used in Latin America, endorsed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and developed by a resident of St. Mary - a Mr. Everald M. Gowie.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, we have entered into an Agreement to have a literacy and numeracy programme, endorsed by the United Nations on Education and Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Cuban ‘Yes, I Can’ programme is to be delivered over a three-month period. I am grateful to the Government and people of Cuba for this kind gesture and I also want to thank Her Excellency Gisela Garcia Rivera and staff.

St. Mary’s Chamber of Commerce, is twinned to that of the National Chamber of Cuba. Personally all my aunts and uncles except one were all born in Cuba. No, Mr. Speaker, I am not the holder of dual citizenship.

We intend to train trainers and incorporate our grade 4 teachers in this programme.

I wish to also thank the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT) and Digicel for their support with this programme.

Mr. Speaker, among our programme of activities to improve the literacy programme is the allotment of a portion of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), towards the setting up of a reading corner in every grade 4 classroom in all our primary schools in St. Mary.

Notable among our efforts Mr. Speaker is our involvement with Microsoft Corporation to ensure that our children achieve full literacy. I use this opportunity to pay tribute to Microsoft and its team led by, Mr. Bill Gates and Mrs Gerry Elliott, Senior Vice President and a Jamaican herself as well as Mr. Rick Mercet and Joe McKinson. I especially thank them for the gift of 100 computers; these we have used to create Community Access Points informal internet cafés, within reach of my people.

Mr. Speaker, let me also thank Cable & Wireless, for the donation of mobile phones, for all the Computer Access Points (CAP), so that the internet can be accessed. We are excited about the possibilities of the programme, asMicrosoft is committed to continue offering training and other programmes to our citizens.

In Western St. Mary, the Excelsior Community College popularly called, EXCED, has just opened a campus in Oracabessa, and we thank them and the Parish Council. I had promised it, and it is now a reality. Mr. Speaker, this is development with the people at the centre. We are still determined that before my first term ends a tertiary institution will be opened in Gayle.

Mr. Speaker, we are grateful to HEART/NTA. Since September, three (3) new training centres have been opened for the hospitality industry in Jacks River, Rio Nuevo (Cosmetology) and Boscobel, with a fourth to be opened in Charles Town in July of this year while at Three Hills they will be conducting front office and general administration, late in the year.

A nursing programme is also on the way for the Wood Park Community Skills Centre at the Claude Stewart Maternity Centre, while the Lucky Hill community centre will focus on Agriculture.

Water

Mr. Speaker, while education is a priority of mine for the constituency also sharing that spot is basic amenity - water – which affects us all; and in that regard I thank the St. Mary Parish Council and the Ministry of Water and Housing for what they are doing in Western St. Mary. Neworks, for 20 years, have not seen piped water, new pipes are acquired and work begins in two (2) weeks.

Over River, Wood Park, replacing of the pipeline begins next month. Wellington, Hunts Town, Top Pen communities without piped water, the tender was closed, a recommendation made, and we will break ground in one-month’s time. Water is life!

Mr. Speaker, when I was campaigning I promised the then Councillor for the Oracabessa Division, Donald Sutherland, that I would in my first term, allow him the pleasure of piped water in his house. I want him to shower at home; but although they have changed him my promise remains.

The Mason Hall water project, worth $110M has been approved, and will begin this financial year for completion next financial year. My colleague, Everald Warmington will give more details when he speaks in this Honourable House. The re-laying of pipes in Geddes Mountain, Hamilton Mountain is set for later this year.

Housing

In terms of housing, the four operation pride schemes, Eden Park, Boscobel, Huddersfield and Galina are being fast tracked, so that poor people can get land to build their homes. The Three Hills project will see an additional two hundred (200) lots coming on stream soon.

Health

Western St. Mary would like to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health for removing fees from hospitals; and today announced that in Jeffery Town a new clinic will be built to replace the old Gilbert House.

In addition, furnishing has been approved by the Minister himself, for the new clinic, which was built in Windsor Castle by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). The rehabilitation plans for the Retreat and Hunts Town clinics have also been approved.

Roads

Our roads are in a terrible state and we are working with the National Works Agency and Parish Council over the next five (5) years we intended to deal with our road situation. Mr. Speaker, roads like Elgin to Halifax, Rose Street and Church Road , Russell Hall, Hazzard, Geddes Town, Oxford, Gayle to Rio Nuevo, Gayle to Cascade, Airy Hill,, Back Street, White Spring, Mile Gully, Palmetto Grove to Woodside to Windsor Castle; Gayle to Port Maria; Gayle to Guys Hill; Guys Hill to Palmetto Grove; Hunts Town, Bonny Gate, Mason Hall,Pembroke Hall, Marlie, Warrick Castle. Ecuador, Preston, Valley Bush. Days Mountain, Petersfield, Endeavour and many more will be dealt with. Also the the Petersfield and Jack’s River bridges are slated for replacement this year.

Agriculture

In terms of agriculture, Mr. Speaker we have begun dialogue to use the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in partnership with a processor to start a pig rearing programme and assistance to farmers.

We are discussing with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC), the rehabilitation of the oldPembroke Hall Boxing Plant and the Jacks River old Copra plant into a processing plant and business incubator.

Working with the Fishing Co-operatives in Rio Nuevo and Oracabessa, we are installing four (4) Fishing Attraction Devices (FAD). We are also working with the National Land Agency to access land for our farmers.

Development

Mr. Speaker, this government has approved two (2) major projects for Western St. Mary:

    The expansion of the Boscobel Aerodrome which will see one million United States dollars (US$1M) being spent to lengthen the runway, expand the terminal building and grant immigration and customs status and the new jet port will see a lighted run way. We envisage that in the end this will attract the high-end of the tourism market to spend more time in Jamaica. Let me thank the Hon. Michael Henry and his team, for catching and sharing the vision.
    Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the development of a specialist hospital, in Tower Isle, under the ‘Miracle Eye’ programme, is set to become a reality this financial year. This is being facilitated through a partnership between the Government of Jamaica, in partnership with the people and Government of Cuba. The proposed rehabilitation will have two (2) state of the art operating theatres, laser guided surgical equipment, and ultra modern rehabilitation facilities, which should make thishospital a world class facility catering to Jamaicans as well as our brothers and sisters in the region.

Mr. Speaker, this Government is not about talk, we are about taking action on our commitments. This Government is committed to the people’s development; this government is about action – decisive action!

PREAMBLE

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I humbly stand here to speak on a portfolio that is not only challenging but complex. While I straddle the local government reform portfolio, I also have oversight responsibility for the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Board of Supervision the Golden Age Home and the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

I will now proceed to inform and update this House on the achievements, challenges and the way forward with respect to each.

In execution of this task I will outline the continuous efforts in local government reform, the performance report of which lay on the Table for the perusal of members and highlight for you the process that we have been engaged in for the last ten months with the end product being autonomy of the Local Authorities.

The process of local government reform is a significant area of governance in our country and I have been intimately involved with the process for over eighteen years. Today, I am at the helm and humbly accept the task that has been assigned me to steer the process through to decentralization in the shortest possible time frame with minimal dislocation. In other words Mr. Speaker the time for action is now. I do not enjoy the luxury of time like my other ministerial colleagues.

To paraphrase a line from the United States Democratic presumptive nominee – Barack Obama – “the fierce urgency of now” is what underpins the reform process under this Government.

Mr. Speaker our journey with local government reform began many years ago. While I will not seek to delve into a history lesson on the reform process, I must create the framework for my presentation to this Honourable House especially for the benefit of new members. Local Government speaks to a system of sub-national authority that exercises limited power in a specific geographic area and that is why we need to move the process to one that embraces citizens’ participation and empowerment. Local government is a distinct sphere of government that co-exists with central government in the pursuit of good local governance. Hence we are moving from local government reform to local governance reform. That is action.

This government is committed to making it happen, we have no intention of reforming the reform process – it’s time for action and we are making it happen.

It would be remiss of me not to recognize the work of my predecessors, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller and the Member from North West Manchester Dean Peart who have had this portfolio, for paving the path that we now seek to build on and write the closing chapters. To quote one of my predecessors and former Prime Minister The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller:

“the re-organisation and empowerment of the Local Authorities as well as the emphasis on community development  are two processes that are critical to improving governance in the country”.

Madame, we too recognize the importance of this process and the implications for our citizens and this country, that’s why we intend to fast track the necessary legislations and regulations and employ the implementation phase in moving forward.

We respect the voices of the people that have made their various inputs by way of the extensive islandwide consultations that were undertaken. We are serious about implementation – it’s time for action.

Mr. Speaker my mandate therefore by the Honourable Prime Minister is to implement the most feasible of recommendations contained in the “BIBLE” of Local Government Reform now come to be known as the National Advisory Council Report on Local Government Reform. It has become our point of reference.

Let me thank that August body of erudite men and women who comprise the NAC committee for the work they have done and are continuing to do as they prepare the final report.

What is it then that we have achieved to date and are seeking to implement and take decisive action on over the next fourteen months, Mr. Speaker?

Let me contextualize things here Mr. Speaker. On September 7, 2007, the Ministry of Local Government ceased to exist as a Ministry. We became The Department of Local Government in the Office of the Prime Minister. This was a commendable move. Our focus was move poignant, reform will be activated through legislative reviews, capacity building, international networking through conferences and deepened citizens’ participation.

This portfolio Mr. Speaker while concentrating on local government reform also straddles other agencies such as the Board of Supervision which has responsibility for the infirmaries and the homeless, the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home, the National Solid Waste Management Authority which is undergoing a major image re-branding and the Jamaica Fire Brigade for which we are seeking new headquarters, improving the capacity of our firefighters and embarking on increasing public awareness on fire safety and awareness.

My presentation this afternoon will firstly address the welfare issue of the portfolio, that of the homeless and less fortunate among us who are managed through the Board of Supervision.

BOARD OF SUPERVISION

The Board of Supervision is tasked to carry out the Poor Relief Act. The relief of the poor, Mr. Speaker, is everybody’s business.

There are fifteen (15) homes for the poor, commonly called Infirmaries or Golden Age Homes. These house over 1500 residents. They include the aged, the disabled, the mentally challenged, the abandoned and the homeless.

I must pause to acknowledge the work and worth of Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, her Board, Mrs Carol Anthony, her staff and the many poor relief officers, the church, youth clubs, service organizations and just normal citizens, who care.

Special thanks to Mr. Pokar Chandiram and the Board of the Golden Age Home for their efforts towards our indigent and homeless.

The contribution of these persons including groups, from overseas is priceless.

A recent study of the costs to keep the infirmaries going shows that approximately 22 per cent of the cost of running these homes is spent on electricity. We cannot, Mr. Speaker, continue to expend so much funds for energy while other resources are short.

We have just completed a review of the entire homeless portfolio which has revealed the following findings that will no doubt guide our actions on how we operate in the future:

    Institutional care in Jamaica is expensive and not very effective.
    These institutions occupy valuable lands.
    The energy costs are very high.
    We are short of trained staff.
    Funds for indigent housing are almost non existent
    There is need especially in our tourist areas for Drop In Centres for the Homeless.

Most infirmaries are situated in towns either near the sea or on a hill. Some are located in the middle of our towns. This scenario is not safe for the residents nor does it cater to proper rehabilitation care.

In the long term Mr. Speaker, we intend to move to smaller homes. So, rather than have one infirmary per parish, we envision an average of four (4) per parish or one per constituency.

This will mean smaller populations, more community involvement; and because it’s now a house the residents will contribute to their welfare as well as the upkeep of the home. Citizens will find it more manageable to contribute a four (4) burner stove than an industrial one.

We are in the long term looking at removing some homes, selling the land, and putting the funds into a Trust for the upkeep of the homes. We are also presently moving to place generators in all the homes as well as installing solar panels and windmills to reduce the energy costs. Mr. Speaker, the initial investment is expensive but over time it is recoverable.

Mr. Speaker we are into the wholistic approach, as result of which we are also reviewing training programmes for staff of the infirmaries and poor relief officers in the Councils while we intensify our in-service training facility. Let me use this opportunity to issue a word of caution to those persons with the wrong attitude and who have no reason to be offering care to the elderly, that they will not be allowed to abuse our residents.

In continuing our plan of action for the infirmaries Mr. Speaker, we recognize that Drop in Centres in urban areas are desirable; but we are starting in the tourist areas. Special tribute must be paid to the staff and contributors in those centres that already exist in Kingston and Montego Bay.

In moving ahead on this initiative, we are currently working with the Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, the St. Ann Parish Council and other stakeholders to identify lands and funding for a facility in that area

Some people are homeless, Mr. Speaker by choice, nevertheless, we must have a place for them to stop by, freshen up, be medicated and eat. Mr. Speaker for a poor homeless person we can offer no less.

Mr. Speaker, indigent housing, is a vexed issue, not social housing Sir, but indigent housing.

Every year, the local Poor Relief Committee reviews the Paupers Roll and reports that Miss Ivy and Maas Enoch, need a couple sheets of ply, two sheets of zinc and two feet of flash band to make their home habitable.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, we provide two million dollars ($2M) every year to Members of Parliament for social housing. While this is also well needed Mr. Speaker, the indigent needs it more.

It is estimated that fifty million dollars ($50M) is needed to solve this problem and today I would like to say to my fellow Members of Parliament, to join in a worthy cause towards alleviating the plight of the homeless and put two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) into an Indigent Housing Fund to be implemented by the Department of Local Government..

The proceeds from this Fund are to be spent only on the registered paupers.

If Members of Parliament agree and sign the pledge form that will be sent through the Constituency Development Fund, we will collectively realize fifteen million dollars ($15M).

The Department of Local Government will match it Mr. Speaker. The balance of $20M will be realized by:

     Asking all the churches in Jamaica to have a special collection on Saturday, July 12, 2008 or Sunday July 13, 2008.
    Calling on all Jamaicans to give something.
    Asking all National Housing Trust (NHT) contributors who have not collected their returns to sign over to the Fund at least 50 per cent of the uncollected contribution.

Mr. Speaker, here is one problem we can solve! Mr. Speaker, all of us can pitch in, even the little children, “Oh what little hand can do to praise the King of heaven. Little hands Mr. Speaker can contribute to this noble effort”.

Mr. Speaker, the poor the bible says will be with us always’, the bible did not say we must treat them poorly!

Mr. Speaker let us join together in this mission to take care of the poor because we know not what tomorrow may bring. Some of us are just a pay cheque away from poverty.

To this effort let us give, give, give and Mr. Speaker let us give.

National Assistance Bill

For us Mr. Speaker, life is hard, for the poor it is harder. For us life is rough, for the poor it is rougher, but with us life for the poor need not be hopeless.

We are taking action to address legislations that affect how this portfolio is managed. One such action is the review of the Poor Relief Act and the proposed introduction of the National Assistance Bill which will make provision to repeal and replace the Poor Relief Act. Mr. Speaker we are currently in discussions with the relevant stakeholders regarding the above; the outcome of which will be communicated to this honourable House by the Prime Minister.

NATIONAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (NSWMA)

Mr. Speaker, the poor will be with us always so will solid waste. We need to take care of how we manage both. I turn my focus now to this growing problem but one that is not insurmountable. Today, Jamaica generates an average of over nine-hundred-thousand tonnes (900,000) of household waste annually, and of this amount, approximately seven-hundred and thirty tonnes (730,000) is collected by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA). This Government is taking action to correct this situation.

We are Mr. Speaker, building on the good foundation that was left by my predecessors, but taking action to surgically remove what is not desirable. We have in place a Board that is broad based and well represented, and are moving in consultation with the Association of Local Government Authorities, ALGA, to have more of their members on the Board.

I must commend this highly professional board as it is led by Mr. Dennis Morgan, who understands the vision and is prepared to execute.

There is a renewed spirit and commitment, as the staff ably led by Mrs. Joan Gordon-Webley, is motivated and anxious to move away from the poor public image of the organization.

With a new Board and Executive Director, we have seen the separation with a number of senior staff members and we wish them well, Mr. Speaker as their talent and expertise can be better used elsewhere. We advertised for senior Directorship and have now at the Agency some of the most highly qualified Jamaicans. Jamaicans chosen not for the party card they carry, but for the content and competence of their minds.

Mr. Speaker, we are moving to allow the Agency to do what the law requires, that is to be a regulatory and monitoring agency. We want to set standards and let the cleaning companies be allowed to perform.

We are in a transitional period and have returned the responsibility for solid waste to the Councils and have insisted that the true cost of cleaning a parish be submitted and subjected to discussion with the Parish Councils. An account is being operated for the time being for the Councils at the Department of Local Government. We are completing a MOU, between the Councils and the Agency because payment is going to be on a service -delivery basis.

Mr. Speaker, We have rezoned the island, increasing the cleaning zones to allow for small areas, therefore more intense cleaning. It will also allow the small truck operator a chance to get a zone.

We are introducing roving teams that will move around in a zone to bush, cut overhangs, clean drains and sweep.

On a monthly basis we will also do intense cleaning of targeted areas such as Trench Town, Mountain View and the Cassava Piece Gully.

Continuing the plan of action, Mr. Speaker, we are moving to close four of our small landfills and to use transfer stations. Four transfer stations are currently on the wharf. We will also be getting twenty three compactors, eleven of which are in the island and twelve tipper trucks. The acquisition of these equipment will greatly enhance our operational efficiency and reduce our reliance on the supplemental fleet.

We have also moved to address the human factor in all of this Mr. Speaker. We have reorganized the landfill staff, appointed them, issued medical cards, vaccinated them and provided them with bathrooms.

Mr. Speaker, let me commend the Unions, especially Mr. Alston Johnson of the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU), the Board and the Management, as again we have forged partnership in which the lines of communication are open and we meet quarterly. For example Mr. Speaker, we have agreed that with units to be sold or leased, the current drivers will have first choice, they will also be invited to tender on any new contracts to be issued.

Mr. Speaker, the plan of action is gaining momentum; we are moving to convert our waste to energy. We are playing our part in reducing our energy bill. To that end Mr. Speaker, we are working in conjunction with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, PCJ, and Office of Utilities Regulation, OUR to form a stakeholders committee. The OUR has since issued a Request For Proposals.

We are going to utilize our garbage, but we have to ensure that we have enough solid waste to keep the plant going. Approximately one tonne of solid waste gives 1mkw of electricity and we can continue the process to bio-diesel or ethanol. We are currently exploring the idea of paying our people for their solid waste, especially along gullies. We currently do now, as we have to clean gullies and drains, if not the plastics and other non-bio-degradable waste go to the sea and damage our reefs as well as block our drains and cause flooding. We cannot afford this cost. So it is cheaper to pay upfront.

Additionally Mr. Speaker, we have almost completed negotiations with a small private investor who is interested in using our feedstock for a proposed bio-diesel plant. He is expected to spend approximately for this investment in the St. Andrew area.

We as a Government will not be putting up one cent to this or any other waste-to-energy plant.

As someone once said, “You must come with long pockets.”

Mr. Speaker, we take the cleaning and beautification of Jamaica seriously and that is why we have a new slogan and we want this House to join me and our team as we pledge : “Jamaica’s beauty is our duty.” We therefore need as a nation to litter less. Not clean more.

JAMAICA FIRE BRIGADE

Mr. Speaker, littering less can also minimize the incidents of unwanted fires across the island. This leads me into the next portfolio responsibility that of the Jamaica Fire Brigade.

The action we have taken here Mr. Speaker is one of consensus. We have formed an alliance with the Unions, Management, Board and The Department. It is an alliance, that sees us meeting on a quarterly basis to update, to appraise and to plan.

For this I thank the Unions, for their patience and contribution, in guiding me while I learn on the job. I ask the House to recognize the helpful contribution of the Unions, namely: National Workers Union (NWU), Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO).

Mr. Speaker, we are fortunate in Jamaica to have a Bridge of highly-skilled, highly trained professional men and women. Indeed, these men and women work beyond the call of duty in harsh conditions and with limited resources.

These men and women, not only fight fires, but give medical assistance and respond in disasters. These are the men and women of the Jamaica Fire Brigade. They are Jamaica’s finest and Jamaica’s bravest. Jamaica owes their families a great debt of gratitude.

Mr. Speaker, this year new growth and development will be realized, but Mr. Speaker, this could not be possible without the strong foundation laid by my predecessors Mrs. Portia Simpson Miller and Mr. Dean Peart.

It is however, in my course of duty and under my watch that the Falmouth Fire Station - the most modern in the Caribbean - was opened. It will still be under my watch, that two new Fire stations, Barnett St. in Montego Bay, and Port Maria in St. Mary will be built. The action continues, Mr. Speaker.

We are also mindful Mr. Speaker that the Brigade is in need of a conducive working environment from which to carry out its administrative functions. To this end we have entered into negotiations with three prospective landlords in our search for a new headquarters for the Jamaica Fire Brigade.

Mr. Speaker, this Government is committed to starting construction of the Jamaica Fire Brigade Regional Training Academy at Twickenham Park in St. Catherine to upgrade officers and refresh superiors.

Our future plans call for it to the establishment of this firefighters’ Academy in the Caribbean. Work on the facility will be carried out in phases Mr. Speaker; but what is so special about this, is that the men and women of the Brigade will undertake in-house, most of the work Mr. Speaker. This is a significant achievement as we strive to build capacity and competence within the Brigade.

The Brigade will continue this year to implement the recommendations of the consultants report. Mr. Speaker, we must also register our appreciation to the Government of the United Kingdom who sponsored this study through the Department For International Development (DFID).

The critical action here Mr. Speaker is to have an implementation committee oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

Training is always ongoing at the Brigade. We are scheduled this year starting in August to begin training eighty five (85) new recruits. We will also continue our in-house training as well as our participation in overseas training programmes.

A brief synopsis of the actions being undertaken in this regard includes the recent training of:

    5 persons at the Fire Service College in England,
    18 persons receiving training under the USAID Bush Fire Training programme
    16 persons recently certified as Emergency Medical Technicians.
    50 persons to be trained in Urban Search and Rescue and
    20 persons to benefit from training as Fire Safety Inspectors while
    2 persons are doing an International Divisional Command Course.

Mr. Speaker, we continue with our repairs to various stations islandwide, utilizing as much as possible the competence available within the Brigade.

Mr. Speaker, the programme of action will see the completion of the Lucea Fire Station. In addition to which Mr. Speaker, the programme to acquire new equipment is well underway. Recently, we took possession of five (5) new heavy rescue fire vehicles. These are equipped with a wide variety of rescue equipment to deal with multiple vehicle accidents and other scenarios.

Eight other trucks are at sea to arrive shortly. These carry platform and turntable ladders for deployment in urban centres with high rise buildings.

Within this plan of action for the fire service, Mr. Speaker, the procurement of fire trucks for bush and rural fire fighting are well underway, as well as bus, minivans and cars to support the other transport needs of the Brigade.

Mr. Speaker, the acquisition of smaller and faster boats as well as the repairs to the current fire boat in Kingston is being addressed. To expedite this action Mr. Speaker, we have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Caribbean Maritime Institute to repair this boat and we are told that it will take approximately three (3) months.

Another of our action items, Mr. Speaker, will see us approaching the Ministry of Tourism’s Tourism Enhancement Fund to assist us in acquiring the boats that offer more flexibility.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to register our appreciation and thanks to Minister Bartlett and his team, for what they are about to do in helping us to realize these initiatives.

Our Master Plan of Action, Mr. Speaker includes the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, with the Ministry of Water and Housing that will see us undertaking a comprehensive rehabilitation programme of our fire hydrants islandwide over the next three years.

Mr. Speaker, we also intend to improve the responsiveness of the fire service as we seek to introduce the Emergency Medical System (EMS) in Portmore and Kingston, this year. With the heavy traffic situation that currently exists, we have had to think out of the box as a result of which we are exploring the feasibility of delivering this service by motorbikes assisted by a service club. The Kiwanis Club of Constant Spring, has come forward to purchase the bikes, as per the specifications of the Brigade itself.

Our emphasis on our list of action items is not just about empowering the brigade but also about increasing public awareness on the issue of fire. Towards this end, the launch of our Community Fire Safety programme in July will vastly improve the public’s knowledge and ability to prevent and assist in extinguishing fires. They will have the ability especially in rural areas to respond first, until the professionals arrive.

Mr. Speaker, we continue aggressively on programmes of Fire Safety Inspection, as well as on various outreach programmes, including homework centres through which we give assistance to our children. Plans are afoot to expand the latter initiative at the Falmouth and Waterford stations and to congratulate both the Trench Town and Rollington Town stations for their continued assistance to the GSAT students.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Mr. Speaker while fire is a major concern of ours and it ought to be given the recent statistics; a worrying trend is that of environmental disasters, particularly hurricanes. We are already in the hurricane season, but Jamaica has never been so prepared. Let me however say that whilst the Disaster Preparedness portfolio is now with the Office of the Prime Minister, the Local Authorities still have a vital role to play and are playing well.

The National Disaster Committee has never met so early. All of the National Committees are active. Mr. Speaker, we as a country are concentrating on the hurricane season, but earthquake, fire and flood, have no season, and equally we must be prepared.

Shelter managers have been trained, disaster coordinators have been placed where there were vacancies, shelters inspected and a migration programme is being developed with all stakeholders. The National Works Agency, (NWA) and the Local Authorities are cleaning drains, the NSWMA is removing garbage from gullies and the Government will be complementing the work of the Parish Councils by expanding their drain cleaning programme. This will be a massive programme as it is cheaper to prepare than to repair. This is Action.

Our plan of action in this regard include our currently reviewing the method of assessment of hurricane damage as well as actively reviewing the suggestions of our partners, to lend transparency to the process in order to minimize the biases and the accusations.

Mr. Speaker, we know the Prime Minister is very firm and forthright that in any assessment, those that depend upon the State, paupers and PATH beneficiaries etc., must get priority.

Mr. Speaker let me pause here to highlight what may seem to be a simple but important matter that has come to my attention - the matter of light poles that are not firmly planted, and concrete light poles that have been left lying in or near drains.

Mr. Speaker, I want to implore the Councils to entertain dialogue with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) towards enforcing better monitoring of the workmanship in the erection of these poles and to have their contractors refrain from placing the poles in drains and seek to remove those that are creating blockages.

The situation can lead to bodily harm and blockage of drains resulting in flooding especially during the hurricane season. Just a word of caution.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my fellow Jamaicans to also get ready, nail down the roofs, clean the yards, limb your trees, pack a little bag, check on the elderly, store some water, know where your shelter is and pray.

BUILDING & APPROVALS PROCESS – “One Road Authority”

Mr. Speaker I did remind this House that the portfolio responsibilities are wide and so I crave your indulgence for a little while longer as I now turn to a major item in our Plan of Action. This Mr. Speaker has to do with the ticklish and topical issue of building and approvals process.

Our immediate plan of action has us currently engaged in a series of consultations with the relevant stakeholders as to how to achieve the Prime Minister’s objectives of improving the turn-around of building plans in ninety (90) days. The Parish Councils are integral in this process as the Council will be the gatekeepers and enforcers.

We are in the process of putting on the final touches to the building code which the Prime Minister will bring to this Parliament very soon.

Mr. Speaker, we are working with the National Environment and Planning Agency, (NEPA) , the Parish Councils and the citizens, to have Development Orders done across the island. We are building capacity at the Councils and are far along this path. A brief look at organization structure in the Councils reveal that 60% of our Superintendents have degrees coupled with many years of experience. 100% of our Deputies have a degree, while all our urban and regional planners have degrees with 30% of this number holding a masters degree. All or 100% of our Building Officers have degrees, diplomas and/or certificates.

Mr. Speaker, no other institution has the competency level or capacity as the Local Authorities. But over the years plans get stuck in the system. The Councils are at one with the Prime Minister. “We cannot continue as we are”. They admit that some of the officers have fallen down badly on the job. This is being addressed and strong firm action is being taken. I pause to congratulate the Municipal and Parish Council Services Commission.

In addition, all Councils have engaged in a concentrated effort to clean up the backlog. Westmoreland has achieved 100% clearance, Clarendon 89%, St. Mary 88%, Portland 87%, St. Catherine and the KSAC 85% each. Mr. Speaker there has been an average of a 79% clean up rate. The action has begun.

But we can still do better and by working with our stakeholders, we intend to release the developer, the investor and the homeowner by allowing them a faster turn around time. We are going to put life into the construction industry. We have initiated the action.

Mr. Speaker, we realize that once sub-divisions are completed, homeowners need their titles quickly. We intend to have the process accelerated, fees reduced and the system digitalized.

But I must issue a word of warning to our developers, investors, home builders and architects that we will be recovering the full cost to remedy any breach of the building code. Likewise, for those who continue to send in incomplete plans, a penalty will be applied.

In addition community land tribunals will be placed within the Councils to allow Jamaicans with family or “dead-lef” land to be able to get a title. We are going to formalize our systems of land tenure and occupancy. We have too many “rich poor people” – rich in assets, but poor in pocket. We must for the good of the nation release our people to legally maintain access to their land and allow them to pay property taxes. They are demanding property-related services and the Prime Minister and the Councils are in one mind on this matter. We are taking action.

Single Road Authority

Mr. Speaker the Government is continuing its consultation with stakeholders for the development of the Single Road Authority. Let me clarify the misconceptions regarding this initiative. It will not be a system in which all Parish Council roads will be transferred to the National Works Agency or vice versa. Instead we envisage a new entity that will have clearly defined rules of engagement. Not an entity that is everything and anything to all. It will have clear distinct features. The three major areas to be addressed under this new entity will include: (a) regulatory and policy arm (b) construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges and (c) routine maintenance. The action is ongoing.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM

Mr. Speaker, let me first thank wholeheartedly the members of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) who all accepted my invitation for reappointment, to complete the final report on Local Government, led by Professor Rex Nettleford. These public servants have done much for Jamaica.

My task is to implement these recommendations and to do so in 24 months.

Mr. Speaker, on the 7th of September 2007, the Ministry of Local Government ceased to exist and we became The Department of Local Government in the Office of the Prime Minister, giving local government for the first time prime ministerial attention.

This was a recommendation of the Report and was quickly implemented. As a matter of fact it is the only reason why I am not in the Cabinet. No other reason, Mr. Speaker.

At my request, a Prototype of the Ideal Local Authority, was developed incorporating the reports of the National Advisory Council and the Joint Select Committee, the Jamaica Labour Party’s Manifesto as well as the experience of many. We have started the work.

The time for action is now!

Firstly, Mr. Speaker, the legal framework must be addressed. We now have a draft constitutional amendment, that will entrench Local Government. For too long we have used local government as a political football such as postponing elections when it suits Central Government. How can we justify being elected for 3 years and having to serve eight? As happened in my first term.

The constitutional entrenchment will finally set the legal basis for Local Government to be a separate sphere of Government.

We also seek as a priority to merge some 17 pieces of legislation to create one Local Authority Act, that will:

    Define the role and responsibility of the Local Authority
    Redefine the role of the Municipal Services Commission and the Local Authority in managing their Human Resources
    Define the role and function of Councillors.
    Set the standards for a code of ethics and a code of conduct to guide the relationship between Councillors and the public

We also seek to remove the various anomalies that exist in these laws.

Mr. Speaker, as part of our action plan we are pursuing discussions on the establishment of a Municipal Police Force and Municipal Court to enforce and regulate local and municipal laws.

Mr. Speaker, already we have trained and deployed over 60 municipal officers who were trained at the Jamaica Constabulary Force Training Academy at Twickenham Park. We are moving to train an additional 135 officers, so that all Councils, will have officers and an ongoing training programme implemented. The officers will assist the Councils in revenue enhancement.

We also intend to conclude discussions with the Ministry of Justice, towards establishing the Municipal Court.

Mr. Speaker, the porosity of some Councils have come up for many discussions. Our action plan here is to clog these pores through the upgrading of internal auditors as travelling officers. No longer must they dedicate themselves to check the syntax and grammar on the voucher, but they must ensure value for money.

We are also addressing this negative perception through the installation of a Financial Management Information System (FMIS), in eight additional Councils by September 2009. This is to ensure sound, prudent and accurate management of the financial affairs. Three Councils, have already installed the system. In addition to this measure, stringent deadlines have been set for all Councils to have their accounts up-to-date by the end of October 2008.

Failure to do same, Mr. Speaker, will see the cutting of funding to Councils from Central Government. This is decisive action.

In other words, Councillors and citizens must now ensure that the Secretary/Managers and staff meet this deadline, otherwise their Council may not have funds for Christmas work!

Training

Mr. Speaker we have embarked on the development and execution of a Training Development Programme in the Councils. Phase One of the programme is complete, with the training of all Councillors, and a special programme being designed for the eighty-two new Councillors. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, our International colleagues assisted by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, hosted a two-day day seminar in Kingston earlier this year for them.

Additionally, training for the officers are presently ongoing as we have just completed a International high level management course, that our Secretary/Managers and senior staff, participated in. Only last week our officers were also exposed to training that included pension calculation, accounting procedures, development planning and technical services at the Department of Local Government.

Mr. Speaker, the action plan is not just about training in technical competence but we seek to address the social side of things. We are preparing our Mayors and Councillors for their official duties at public functions. All Mayors and Councillors benefited from protocol training delivered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A special thanks to the Minister and protocol staff especially Mr. Sam Parris. This is action.

Parish Development Committees (PDC)

It is useful to note that training has not been confined to Councils but we have looked at the broader picture and initiated training seminars for the chairpersons of the Parish Development Committees.

Mr. Speaker, we have come to recognize the Parish Development Committees as partners, not replacements for the Councils. They are part of the responsive network which calls for upward reporting to central government, downward reporting to the citizens and horizontal reporting to civil society.

The PDCs will therefore assist Council to be more responsive, transparent and accountable. They are also the vehicle so designed to address equity, equality and issues of the marginalized. It will also be that body that the Local Authority primarily draws on to incorporate persons to its sub-committees; but of course they are not limited to this pool for selection.

To that end, all Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community-based Organisations (CBOs), that wish to be partners going forward must register with the Councils. We are making sure that we meet the minimum standards of democracy, as we cannot demand that Councils meet these lofty standards yet we are found wanting.

The action continues Mr. Speaker, as the telephone operators are next. As the voice of the Council the training is going to be special.

Also on the agenda is the development of a twenty (20) year development plan for each Council; and in conjunction with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and other stakeholders we will be embarking on publishing the Development Orders for each parish.

This will assist developers and investors, to identify where, how and what can be built in a parish.

We have also come to recognize that there is the need for the strengthening of the internal controls system in the Local Authorities. Mr. Speaker, increased service delivery and funding will require increased capabilities of the Councils.

We are now turning the spotlight on Secretary/Managers, they must now manage as they are the accounting and accountable officers who will now be required to sit before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to explain their queries. It’s time for action, decisive action.

The action continues Mr. Speaker as we are moving to ensure the security of financial resources for the Local Authorities through:

    a fixed percentage of the budget
    raising capital through loans and Municipal Bonds, with this subject to the financial policies of the Ministry of Finance and
    The re-introduction of local rates.

Another action item Mr. Speaker as we enter the decisive phase of local government reform is the establishment of Parish Public Accounts Committee (PPAC) by July 2008. In addition, all the Local Authorities will be required to practice a system of open-budgeting to facilitate input from the citizens. Clarendon however, has moved ahead and their Committee is chaired by an opposition member and is fully operational.

Mr. Speaker, the need for an organizational assessment of the Local Authorities, is necessary, and we are moving to start this process by August 2008.

Another positive action Mr. Speaker is the strengthening of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA), as a strategic partner in the reform process. They have recently held their Annual General Meeting at which a new executive was elected to office. We congratulate them. ALGA’s role is critical as they move to strengthen their monitoring and advocacy role.

Mr. Speaker I think it is fair to say ALGA is moving in on the action. They are about to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR), with regards to standards for streetlight.

They are also in the final stages of discussion with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, to address the plight of former Councillors, who served this country before 1986, and have no pension, and cannot qualify for the Poverty Alleviation for Advancement through Health and Education programme (PATH), although they are experiencing hard times.

Digital Townhall

Mr. Speaker we believe that every Council should have e-government. By e-government I mean promoting not only electronic government but effective and efficient government. Mr. Speaker, the local government reform process is about leveraging technology and taking this to the average citizen. One such avenue is through the digital townhall concept. Under this programme, the system allows for up to 500,000 citizens to register their telephone numbers and has the ability to generate 500,000 email addresses.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, your email address as Delroy Chuck @ksac.com giving you identity to you and your parish? That’s action. It also has the ability to text messages to all 500,000 telephone numbers. One of the more practical uses of this is during disasters.

Sir, everybody has a cellular phone, a text message about an impending disaster, will get to your hands and potentially save lives.

There will be an interactive map so that road blocks can be pinpointed. Space will also be available for a calendar of events; a social networking page, homework assistance and connection to any relevant web page to the parish. We are also talking to a number of colleges to provide content for distance learning!! This is action.

Mr. Speaker, the action taken to establish the Portmore Municipality was an experiment in the new way forward. Having served five years, we are currently doing an assessment of the viability of same and we will over the next month undertake a number of town and stakeholders meetings, so that full informed assessment can be done. The people’s voice in the process is very important, as it is they who have experienced it and it is they who will determine if they benefitted from it.

The results will define as well as determine if we will roll out other municipalities. This is action with people participation.

Mr. Speaker, there are two critical things that are needed if we are to succeed with this programme: Revenue and an Informed Citizenry.

Revenue inflows from own source have increased over time. However, under this programme own source revenue must fund 40 per cent of the budget. The recent thrust by the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), teaming with other stakeholders, to improve compliance with local rates and laws has proven very successful and we congratulate the Mayor and his team.

This experiment has started in other parishes such as St. Mary and Clarendon, and in July we will intensify our efforts island wide. Therefore I say to the captains and sailors of industries; please know your obligations as a citizen - pay your taxes, rates and fees.

On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, citizens’ participation is critical to attaining good governance at the local level. An informed citizen who participates fully understands that democracy is not five seconds in a polling booth every three years, but rather that democracy is the active participation of the citizen in the decision-making process at the local level.

Property Taxes

Mr. Speaker, property taxes is a major part of our revenue, for the first time in our history, a government has offered a one hundred (100) per cent amnesty on all penalties and interest. Mr. Speaker, I urge all the good citizens to do the right thing and go in and pay. Please don’t let us come looking for you.

Mr. Speaker, let me warn that at the end of October when the amnesty closes, we will enforce the law in order to collect the property taxes.

Mr. Speaker, we will not flinch. We are asking the Opposition to assist us in this respect. It is time for action!

Mr. Speaker it is their taxes which pay for streetlights, public water, collection of solid waste and some drain cleaning. We intend to improve these services and we intend to improve the areas from which we offer these services and this costs money. This money must come from taxes.

Mr. Speaker, an exciting development is that our Mayors have approved a plan to use a portion of the increase inflows from motor vehicle registration, to underwrite a US$10M or approximately J$700M loan to improve roads in selected land settlements and housing schemes so as to release titles to home owners, hence getting them on the property tax roll.

The rest of the inflows will be added to their monthly allocation for road maintenance.

Selection of roads is being driven by whether the properties and schemes are title-ready. In other words, the take over of roads and the issuing of a compliance certificate are the only outstanding matters. These will be the priority. This will determine the action we take.

We continue to bring action to the reform process Mr. Speaker as we embark on hosting Mayors’ Forums across the island in each parish which allows for government agencies within the local jurisdiction to make presentations to the communities, Mayors and Councillors as a strategy for building awareness of their role and function.

Another decisive move on our part Mr. Speaker, is the current review process that is underway to extend the tenure of Councillors from three to four years. We have also developed a handbook for Councillors that has since been distributed to all 227 Councillors as a reference guide to their roles and functions and that of Council.

Mr. Speaker, we have even gone further to initiate dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to consider adding Councillors to the Order of Precedence that governs official and state functions. Mr. Speaker, we are taking action to restore respect to the office of Council.

International Obligations

Notwithstanding our efforts Mr. Speaker, to improve local governance, Jamaica is seen as the leader in local governance in the region. Jamaica is the current chair of the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers, and I thank my ministerial colleagues for so electing me.

We are the past chair of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and Vice Chair of the Hemispheric Ministers responsible for Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation (RIAD).

Mr. Speaker, in collaboration, with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has undertaken to fund a CA$400,000 programme on the development of a regional policy and cooperation framework on local governance. Jamaica has started to benefit from this programme through training programmes for local administrators designed at enhancing local governance in the Caribbean .

To assist with this body of work and honouring our international obligations a regional advisor has been employed and he is based here at the Department. This programme will see the draft and adoption of this Regional Policy on Local Governance.

Mr. Speaker let us register our thanks and appreciation to CIDA and the Canadian Government

As we continue our International work, we are currently reviewing an invitation from the Organization of American (OAS) to host a Hemispheric Decentralization Conference in November this year. We are currently preparing a Cabinet Submission seeking approval for this historic encounter that will bring over 600 delegates including presidents, prime ministers, ministers and mayors to our island. That’s another plan of action to move the reform process forward through regional dialogue.

Let me encourage all Mayors and Councillors to participate in this international forum as well as attend the upcoming Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) conference to be held in the Bahamas in May next year at which our Prime Minister has consented to be the keynote speaker..

I want to continue to encourage them Mr. Speaker to take advantage by getting involved in the best practice schemes that are also administered through the CLGF. St. Mary and Portmore have benefited tremendously from this scheme.

I am also encouraging Councils to spread their wings in the international arena by exploring the possibilities of twinning with their overseas counterparts as is the case with the St. Mary Parish Council which is twinned with the City of Freeport in the Bahamas, the St. James Parish Council which is twinned with Atlanta in the United States and the KSAC which enjoys this relationship with the City of Shenzhen in China in London. These are action taken to building international bridges.

In summary Mr. Speaker, we envision that in this new dispensation we will witness a more responsive council with their own municipal court and municipal police force. We are about to witness Councils that have the ability to respond effectively to the needs of citizens through international linkages and networking.

Our ultimate action at the end of the reform process is to “cut the apron string” and allow Councils their full autonomy.

Finally, I want to use this opportunity to thank the Hon. Prime Minister for his confidence in the local government system and to remind this Honourable House that when he first spoke here in 1972 at the beginning of his political career it was on the issue of local government that he spoke.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Speaker in concluding my presentation today, let me state that the local government reform process in Jamaica is on an irreversible path. A path paved by my predecessors and reinforced by the commitment of this government to make it happen through decisive action.

We envision a system of “I” Governance”: Intimate governance, Interactive governance, Inclusive governance and International governance.

We operate on the recognition that good governance can only be attained through the deepening of citizens’ participation, a responsive local government system that upholds transparency and accountability in its operations.

Mr. Speaker for years we have been reforming local government, on September 7, this year we moved beyond that mindset and have started to take decisive action by virtue of the measures we have put in place, plans for reviewing existing legislations, drafting new ones, building capacity, forging international linkages, tapping into e-governance and applying technology in our Councils and introducing it to our citizens. Finally, in another fourteen months we will be affording full autonomy to the Local Authorities.

Mr. Speaker while we focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Local Authorities, we are mindful that our portfolio agencies have a role to play in our success as a Department.

Our action plan highlighted a transformed National Solid Waste Management Authority with strong and decisive leadership at the helm, partnering in a major waste-to-energy initiative. We continue to forge ahead with a better equipped Fire Brigade, new fire stations and training facility to be built with ongoing training for our fire fighters. We are acting on new initiatives for indigent housing and exploring new legislations to better govern our homeless as well as provide relevant training to our poor relief officers. Our national disaster preparedness committee is ready and drain cleaning is a reality

Our “one stop shop” approach to the building and approvals process with a ninety-day turn-around deadline is receiving active dialogue with the relevant stakeholders and the Local Authorities and central government are at one in the need to fast track this process and have the Building Code ready.

Mr. Speaker, while ten months may be a short time, it is not too short to take action. We have the will and where there is a will, there is a way. For the first time, local government reform is poised on the threshold of opening avenues of opportunities for our local authorities our communities and our citizens.

Mr. Speaker I want to thank my God for the grace he has granted me. My constituents for having faith in me, my constituency managers and workers for tolerating me, my family for supporting me, the Prime Minister for having confidence in me and the local government system and also my colleagues for having faith in me.

Let me take this opportunity to ask all Jamaicans to support the indigent housing initiative, and communities to continue to support the fire brigade and infirmaries, prepare for the hurricane season, but importantly, adopt a family who is less fortunate than you and engage in getting active in the Local Government Reform process.

Mr. Speaker, let us agree to commit ourselves to making our Local Government system the best in the world through active participation because our action is what will determine how serious we are about local government reform in Jamaica land we love.

Mr. Speaker it was good to be here this afternoon. I look forward to being here next year, God’s willing!

Thank you and God Bless You!

 

Featured Video - JLP Rally Sam Sharpe Square 2016

JLP MANIFESTO 2016 (PDF)