Administrative staff of five municipalities are now better equipped to provide support to newly elected councillors after next year’s local government elections following a recent interactive two-day workshop.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Communities, the Local Economic Development Workshop facilitated by Caribbean Local Economic Development Project (CARILED) was held at the Herdmanston Lodge. It was one in a series to provide support for municipal development with respect to capacity building. It was presented by Dr Gordon McIntosh and targeted the administrative staff of New Amsterdam Municipality, Rose Hall Town Council, Linden Municipality, Anna Regina Municipality and Corriverton Town Council.
The release said that according to Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Dawn Hastings-Williams, the ministry is partnering with CARILED to build the capacities of service officers in preparation for the March 18, 2016 local government elections. The aim is to have technically capable administrative personnel who understand the respective roles and responsibilities of the municipality, business and government to work along with newly elected councillors.
The minister emphasised that the creation of a plan of action for municipal development is needed to propel local economic development.
According to the release, Roger Rogers, National CARILED Coordinator, CARILED stated that the creation of a plan of action for municipal development would be futile without the necessary technical and capacity building of relevant officers to support its implementation. Therefore, equally important is an understanding of the utility of the process of strategic planning and Local Economic Development (LED).
Rogers stated that the thrust of LED emphasises the strategic utilisation of resources within communities and their strategic alignment to exploit the comparative advantage to create income generating activities and other economic opportunities for communities.
Therefore, municipalities need to be the engine that allows small and medium businesses to grow through the provision of essential public services, according to McIntosh, who emphasized that municipalities should not be in competition with local enterprises. He reminded participants that municipalities do not create employment but provide the conditions that lead to prosperous businesses which create employment, the release said.
McIntosh challenged participants to list the conditions needed to start, sustain and expand a business. Some of the responses such as infrastructure, money, low crime and labour were present under each or more than one category. This helped to paint a clear picture as to how the municipality, when functioning effectively and efficiently, would help businesses.
It was noted that municipalities do not operate in isolation and need the assistance of key players such as businesses, civil society and government. However, the roles of each player in economic development should be clear to prevent duplication and waste of resources. These should be taken into consideration when councillors are developing their strategic plan.
Importantly, the strategic plan should comprise an action plan which would outline the objectives, how they would be achieved and timelines for completion. The release said McIntosh noted that this action plan should be referred to periodically to measure achievements, and tweaked if necessary. He advised that these documents should be simple.
Participants expressed gratitude for the workshop and believe that the newly elected councillors should benefit from similar workshops. They noted that positive changes are already occurring in the local government system and are of the view that more would occur following elections, the release said.