Consultation on Local Government soon
June 25, 2004

Consultation on Local Government soon

Consultations toward gathering recommendations for the reintroduction of effective Local Government are expected to begin here soon.
The process has been jumpstarted with the launching Monday of the Local Government Reform Commission (LGRC) with an official ceremony at Cabinet Room, Administrative Complex in Kingstown.{{more}}
The launch ceremony was presenced by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and most members of Cabinet, chairman of the Commission Owen Cuffy and his deputy Stephen Huggins, other members of the Reform Commission and the media. However noticeably absent were representatives from the Parliamentary Opposition.
In the opening address Dr. Gonsalves explained that the recommendations he was about to give were merely personal and could be accepted or declined by the Commission before launching into a historical background of Local Government in the region.
He pointed out that Local Government was first set up here “As early as November 18, 1897, the colonial government passed a Kingstown Board Ordinance so as to establish a corporate body for the capital city, Kingstown, and to make provision in other respects for its government.”
He however noted that that “Kingstown Board was partly elected, on a limited franchise based on property ownership, and partly nominated. Interestingly, in 1897 there were no elected representatives whatsoever in the colony’s legislative body, the Legislative Council, which then comprised only of nominated members and officials; it was not until 1925 that a limited elective element was re-introduced in the Legislative Council after over fifty years of pure Crown Colony government.”
The Prime Minister also noted that “the Kingstown Board at the turn of the twentieth century had an elected component, though on a limited franchise, but the Legislative Council had none.
He recalled that “this Kingstown Board did not survive the 1970s, a few years after internal self-government was achieved nationally in 1969.”
Dr. Gonsalves opined that there are some lessons to be learnt from the past local experiences. These, he enumerated, including that “neither directly elected local government authorities nor centrally-administered local government has produced commendable results in the efficient and practical delivery of the designated public services.”
He said “competitive local government elections in the era of consolidated party politics served to divide local communities along partisan political lines without throwing up a sufficiency of quality candidates for local governance.” This, the Prime Minister pointed out was also the experience in the larger countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago with the result of “ ineffective local government riddled with political patronage and even corruption amidst sharply-divided communities, politically.”
He offered that “centrally-administered local government structures exclude meaningful community participation by worthy individuals directly or through viable non-governmental organisations (NGOs)” which “contributes to increased alienation of the people from the political system” and “attract a lower-quality personnel.”
The small size of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was also cited as a factor which “militates against a too-highly tiered system of local government which would add additional expense without necessarily contributing a more effective delivery of public services.”
The Prime Minister further posited that “the vibrancy of competitive parliamentary democracy, in small constituencies, in this small society makes it unnecessary and undesirable to have such competitive elections replicated at the local or community levels.”
He argued that “the multi-island nature of our nation-state demands special local government arrangements for the Grenadine islands without in anyway undermining the unitary character of the State” and stated that “local governance structures cannot be fashioned in a way which would undermine the work of the central government.”
He further emphasized that if local government authority were to be in the hands of a political party other than the one in power “paralysis and confusion in governance will result.”
The Prime Minister said that the challenge is to design local government systems that will “capture a satisfactory element of representative democracy without deepening partisan political divisiveness;” incorporate NGOs and “meritorious individuals to enhance popular participation and efficiency in governance and to link effectively with a reformed central government apparatus.
Also speaking at the launch was LGRC chairman Owen Cuffy who expressed satisfaction that the process was finally on the road. Cuffy, a former permanent secretary, who also was a member of an earlier Local Government Commission, will be assisted by fourteen other members. They include lawyer Stephen Huggins as deputy; Nicolette Balcombe, teacher Oswald Robinson, businessman Hudson DeRoche, pastor and businessman Leroy Thomas, publisher and lawyer Desiree Richards, Martin LaBorde of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Bequia businesswoman Angela Hinkson, trade unionist Lloyd Small, retired headmistress Amy Richards, local Peace Corp head Cuthbert James, WINFA executive Arthur Boob, businessman Liley Cato and Pastor Noel Clarke.