Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Local government consultation launched; PM Kamla appeals for more people participation

File: PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar: "The heart of the success of a nation will always,
in my respectful view, be measured by the satisfaction people derive from contributing
to the development of their communities, their village, their city, their town and their Nation."
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Tuesday launched a consultation on local government reform, fulfilling her campaign promise to engage the population in dealing with such reform.

In a speech marking the event at the San Fernando City Hall, she noted that local government is very dear to her because that is where she started her political career in 1987 as an Alderman at what was at the time the St Patrick County Council.

"I want to make it very clear that my stint in local government allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the problems faced by local government practitioners and the staff of the corporations, in getting resources and in meeting the needs of constituents, local government being the point of first call for those problems that constituents face," she said.

The local government consultation comes just days after Persad-Bissessar launched a national consultation on constitutional reform, which has already held two public sessions.

She said citizens of all walks of life should have a say in how governance of their communities are organized and explained that is the reason for proceeding with consultations on both the constitution as well as local government modernization and transformation. 

She said consensus building has been at the heart of the governance model that her People's Partnership coalition is using.

"The level of public discourse on matters of public concern has never been as extensive and as widespread as it is and has been under my administration," she said. "
I have no problem with that. People demand more and people deserve more. I believe that we have succeeded as a Government in bringing more people into the process of governance, than any other Government in the past." 

She said Local Government gives the government the unique opportunity to involve people in decision making.

"Quite often these decisions do not only remain at the local level; but also reach the Cabinet table and even the Parliament, thus giving a National face to the functioning of local government," she said.

"It is one of my personal desires that this process of involvement and influence by local communities, working through your Corporations, will be deepened in the modernization which is intended.

"As a result, the structures to encourage this deeper involvement must form part of the reform agenda.

"The heart of the success of a nation will always, in my respectful view, be measured by the satisfaction people derive from contributing to the development of their communities, their village, their city, their town and their Nation."

The Prime Minister said there is a lack of commitment to nation building among citizens and too many people have become observers and commentators.

While she said it is OK to be a critic she also stated that we must beyond that. "If we are to succeed as a people, if we are to build a quality nation, one that is globally competitive, we must move beyond being mere critics and join the movement for a better Trinidad and Tobago," she said.

"This country belongs to all of us. We must collectively work to make it a better place. We must become responsive to Trinidad and Tobago.
A great place to start is at the local level, the level of the communities," the Prime Minister added. 

She said the alternative to shared governance and empowered communities will be internal conflicts and de-energized communities. "We believe that what people create, they appreciate, they protect and they grow," she said. 

The Prime Minister provided some guidelines to help in the consultations:
  1. Giving Constitutional protection to Local Government. What we are hoping is to make the necessary changes so that no government can be capable of disrupting the local government elections in Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Increasing the financial and human resources available to local government authorities and particularly in the case of the latter, determining what formula might be used to determine the allocations
  3. Empowering Corporations to borrow for self-sustaining projects. We look forward to your recommendations and suggestions on that issue
  4. We also look forward to your recommendations and suggestions on enhancing the capability of the state financed offices for local government representatives, so as to impact upon more effective representation
  5. Examining functions which are now managed by Central Government and delegating these to local government, given the affinity of the function to local communities
  6. Creation of full time local government representatives. Whilst you are expected to be available and work 24/7, there is an old school view that local government is a part-time job
  7. Construction of town halls in every district and utilizing them for regular town meetings
  8. Increasing the involvement of NGO’s in the work of the local authorities, especially social service delivery
  9. Training of local representatives in management and leadership skills, as well as skills related to the organization of people and communities
  10. Reconsider the formulation of the national budget with greater inputs from local communities, thus creating a needs driven and needs fulfillment model of governance
  11. Develop mechanisms for ensuring that Local Government fulfills a primary mandate which is people centered development
  12. Arriving at a common set of values to guide the functioning of Regional Corporations in their relationship with the public
  13. Consider the election (or appointment) of three special representatives in each local authority - male and female youth representatives and a representative for women and children
  14. Consider the best structure for a Regional Corporation
  15. Consider whether all Heads of Local Government Corporations should be called Mayors, rather than some as Chairmen and others as mayors
  16. Consider the role of the Municipal Police and whether they should be placed under the Commissioner of Police

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai