Senator says having one election could save country $1 billion

GOVERNMENT Senator Charles Sinclair is the latest public official to advocate the holding of parliamentary and local government elections on the same day, saying that doing so would save the country at least $1 billion.

“Let us have local and central elections in one process. We have rationalised several areas of government so why can’t we rationalise the process of elections? It costs $1.5 billion to put on local or general [elections] — make one spend, or you bump it up to $2 billion, and you have one election instead of spending $3 billion in possibly one year,” he reasoned.

Sinclair, who was making his contribution to the state of the nation debate in the Senate last Friday, said he believes “the Jamaican electorate can manage it [one election process]”.

The senator further called for the full entrenchment of local government in the Jamaican Constitution, with fixed election dates “which cannot be disturbed by a majority in Parliament”.

He also contended that there is need for reform in local government, noting that the Local Governance Act of 2016 is now due for revision.

“It facilitates the strengthening of local government in the parish. Everything cannot be run from central government; you cannot have effective governance if everything is done from central government,” he said.

The senator said he is of the view that certain aspects of that legislation, and other attendant laws, need to be reviewed to improve on the autonomy of the municipal corporations.

“Several mundane matters have to be routed under the Local Governance Act to the minister for approval. For example, the mere sale or lease of lands owned by the municipal corporation or held in trust for the citizens of the municipal corporation, you have to get the permit of the minister. Why do we have to do that when you have procurement guidelines and oversight bodies such as the auditor general and Integrity Commission…Why is it that you have to move it to a minister?” he queried.

Sinclair said he is also of the belief that the relationship between the municipal corporations and other agencies of central government needs to be revisited and reset. “For example, is public health under the direction of the Ministry of Health or the local board of health? Whose direction does [an officer] follow?,” he asked.

Turning to the area of road maintenance Sinclair also expressed the view that municipal corporations should be strengthened to become the ‘road authority’ to maintain roads throughout the parish. He further suggested that the National Works Agency (NWA) should be established as a regional body with responsibility for major structural works.

“Residents in communities should be encouraged to use the provisions of the strategic laws to establish special improvement districts and business improvement districts. Community members have to be given an avenue to take charge of their communities,” he suggested.

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