"Local Government, Communitarianism and the Citizen: Opportunities and Challenges"

Report of the Workshop in Kingston, Jamaica

June 8-9, 1998

A Sub-regional Meeting of the "Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation"

Unit for the Promotion of Democracy

General Secretariat

Organization of American States


Secretary General

César Gaviria

Assistant Secretary General

Christopher R. Thomas

Executive Coordinator, Unit for the Promotion of Democracy

Elizabeth M. Spehar


This is a publication of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States. The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the OAS or its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.

The present report was compiled by Program Coordinator Anne-Marie Blackman of the Area of Strengthening of Democratic Institutions headed by Rubén M. Perina. Collaboration was received from the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Mona and St. Augustine Campuses, and special thanks are extended to Professor Selwyn Ryan, whose team of rapporteurs Ivan Cruickshank, Maxine Jackson, Denise Hunter and Norma Williams assisted in synthesizing the discussions of the Workshop.

Design and composition of this publication was done by the Information and Dialogue Section of the UPD, headed by Caroline Murfitt-Eller. Jamel Espinoza and Esther Rodriguez helped with its production.

Copyright@1999 by OAS. All rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced provided credit is given to the source.



Table of Contents


Summary of Workshop Proceedings

Exploring the Issues

1 Background Discussion Papers

a. Caribbean Local Governance: Re-examining the Building Blocks
b. Caribbean Local Government: Development and Economic Issues
c. The Ombudsman and Effective Local Public Administration

2. Fundamental Themes

a. Decentralization
b. Development
c. Communitarianism
d. Capacity Building
e. Ombudsmanship

3. Main Messages from the Discussions

Conclusions and Recommendations

I General Needs
2. Priorities for the Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation


1. List of Participants 

2. Address by Professor Dr. Elsie Le Franc, Director, Institute of Social and
Economic Research, Mona Campus, University of the West Indies, UWI

3. Address by Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas,
Assistant Secretary General, Organization of American States

4. Address by Professor Rex Nettleford, Deputy, Vice-Chancellor, UWI

5. Address by Mrs. Barbara James, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Youth and Community Development of Jamaica

6. Background Discussion Paper: Caribbean Local Governance:
Re-Examining the Building Blocks, by Professor Edwin Jones

7. Background Discussion Paper: The Ombudsman and Effective Local Public
Administration, by Dr. Derrick McKoy and Dr. Yvonne Stone

8. Background Discussion Paper: Caribbean Local Government:
Development and Economic Issues, by Dr. Neville Duncan



This report summarizes the deliberations and conclusions of the Workshop for States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the theme "Local Government. Communitarianism and the Citizen: Opportunities and Challenges" held in Kingston, Jamaica on June 8 and 9, 1998. This sub-regional Workshop initiated the "Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation" of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), a program aimed at supporting relevant mandates of the Second Summit of the Americas by helping to strengthen decentralization efforts, local government institutions and the promotion of citizen participation at the local level. The current Workshop was organized with the collaboration of the Institute of Social and Economic Research of the University of the West Indies (ISER/UWI) at the Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica, and was greatly facilitated by the support of the Government of Jamaica.

The Workshop took place against the backdrop of increasing attention, in the Caribbean as in the rest of the hemisphere, to decentralization and local governance issues, as well as to empowering local communities for participation in decision-making on public policy. Indeed, local governance and the delivery of local services, citizen participation, the protection of citizen rights and the institutional arrangements through which these are managed are increasingly of interest to regional policy-makers. This Workshop focussed on policy considerations and effective strategies, mechanisms and instruments for dealing with key issues in decentralization and local governance with community participation in the Caribbean sub-region. Permanent Secretaries and other senior officials exchanged information on processes underway in their respective countries, and concluded by outlining an agenda of issues for collaboration by countries of the sub-region in the areas analyzed. The Workshop's conclusions and recommendations defining important priorities in the areas examined will be the basis for the Caribbean component of this UPD Program of Cooperation



Summary of Workshop Proceedings

The Workshop was inaugurated by Mrs. Barbara James, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Youth & Community Development of Jamaica, on behalf of the Minister, the Honourable Arnold Bertram. The Permanent Secretary pointed to the firm commitment of the Government of Jamaica to creating a strong and vibrant system of local administration, through local government reform and the empowerment of local communities and civil society. Mrs. James also emphasized the Government of Jamaica's support for regional cooperation on issues relating to local governance, and noted that the hemisphere-wide Program of Cooperation initiated by this sub-regional event in Jamaica was seen as an indication of the OAS' strong commitment to supporting activities to strengthen governance in the region, and as a recognition that such initiatives are most likely to succeed if approached on a regional basis, by sharing experiences and developing common policy initiatives and strategies for meeting challenges.

The featured speakers at the opening ceremony were:

In her opening remarks, Dr. Le Franc observed that the global political economy, driven by philosophies of globalization, the market economy and a minimalist approach on the part of the State, carried powerful implications for vulnerable regional States. Regional cooperation on issues such as local government was one possible response. Collaborative efforts would yield benefits if they concentrated on network-building and collegiality, institutional strengthening, development of regional expertise and knowledge base, and promotion of endogenous solutions to development problems.


The Assistant Secretary General emphasized that it was essential for peace, stability and development that lessons learned about governance and social management be channeled into meeting present challenges. In establishing strong and stable democracies in the face of such challenges, it was important to institute mechanisms and instruments which would advance the process of decentralization and re-empower local government institutions. He considered that such arrangements for local governance must promote the interests of the entire community; draw on social networks and traditions of neighborliness, community based involvement and volunteerism; promote transparency and confidence in public institutions; build community leadership. The Assistant Secretary General noted that effective participation is essential to democracy.

Professor Nettleford advised that strategies to make local government work for and through the people must be firmly rooted in a culture of partnership, forged by the State, the private sector, and the people-at-large mobilized for people-based thought and action. Strategies must also draw on community action models developed across the region. He emphasized that local government must be consonant with the aspirations of participatory democracy, the optimization of productivity and the creation of a well educated, highly skilled and culturally confident human resource base on which the future of the entire Caribbean depends.

In the course of its deliberations, the Workshop analyzed three background discussion papers, prepared with the objective of stimulating an exchange of views:

• "Caribbean Local Governance: Re-examining the Building Blocks" by Professor Edwin Jones of the Department of Government, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica, who also served as local technical coordinator for the Workshop.

• Caribbean Local Government. Development and Economic Issues by Dr, Neville Duncan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.

• The Ombudsman and Effective Local Public Administration co-authored by Dr. Derek McKoy and Dr. Yvonne Stone of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

Complementing the presentation of the above paper by Dr. McKoy, the Workshop heard from Ms. Lawrence Laurent, the Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) of Saint Lucia, on issues related to the Office of the Ombudsman and its role in promoting efficient public service delivery and good governance, including at the local level. Ms. Laurent also provided information on the Commonwealth Regional Workshop "Strengthening National Ombudsman and Human Rights Institutions in the Caribbean" held in Antigua and Barbuda, March 9-12, 1998, which decided to establish the Caribbean Ombudsman Association, of which she is interim Secretary.

These presentations and background discussion papers promoted lively debate, providing a backdrop for the rich exchanges of information and experiences among the participating Member States, each of which shared information on national developments in the areas of decentralization, local governance and citizen participation. Interspersed with the e plenary presentations and discussions, informal micro workshops facilitated greater in-depth examination of specific issues and cases.

The Workshop also heard a presentation from Ms. Anne Marie Blackman, Senior Specialist, Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, on the overall objectives of the "Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation". The general Program orientations had been recommended by government officials of OAS Member States at the Seminar on "Support to Processes of Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation" held in Caracas, Venezuela in May 1997. Ms. Blackman stated that the UPD is committed to implementing the Program of Cooperation in accordance with priorities designated by the participating countries of each sub-region, and within available resources. She noted that the UPD is particularly interested in collaboration and coordination with other institutions and agencies working on similar issues.

Mr. Charles Skeete, Senior Advisor in the Strategic Planning and Operational Policy Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) also addressed participants on IDB operations in the region and the approach of the IDB to the issues under discussion. Mr. Skeete noted the importance attached by the Bank to consensus and capacity building activities, given the objective of assisting the region to identify priorities in terms of strengthening civil society in general, and implementation capacity in particular. He also observed that, in 1997, the IDB had made several loans or grants to countries in the region to fund projects designed to improve governance, strengthen civil society, build solidarity networks, assist small businesses and protect vulnerable groups.

The Workshop concluded with a session at which participants identified shared priorities as a basis for collaborative action within the UPD Program of Cooperation. In closing the proceedings, brief votes of thanks were offered by Dr. Elsie Le Franc, Director, Institute of Social and Economic Research, UWI, and Ms. Anne-Marie Blackman, Senior Specialist, Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, OAS.



Exploring the Issues

1. Background Discussion Papers

a. Caribbean Local Governance: Re-Examining the Building Blocks by Professor Edwin Jones, UWI, Mona

This paper focussed on the author's conceptualization of a new orientation for local governance in the Caribbean to help to meet present regional governance challenges. The social and political history of local government development in the sub-region were reviewed, with the observation that such reform as had obtained in the past had primarily been concerned with creation of bureaucratic structures, rather than with processes designed to foster accountability and good local governance. Meaningful local or community governance was defined as "people power" which thrives on arrangements for co-management, using government as one instrument, and looked outward to the community served, rather than inward to the bureaucracy and elected officials.

The presenter considered that there was a need to re-examine local governance structures, re-furbishing them with new building blocks. In recent years, this need was also recognized by international agencies which had become aware that the mobilization of civil society was a critical imperative in democratization. It was observed, "that a vigorous local government system is essential for the flourishing of a strong civil society and equally, a strong civil society is critical for the existence of a creative democratic local government system."

A review of the doctrine and practice of "new public management" showed that these new management techniques focussed on output and results. Thus the success of this approach depended on effective performance monitoring and control, capabilities which tend to be in short supply in local level structures throughout the region. New public management systems may be of benefit depending on context, but they are most effective where civil society is alive and vigilant, and where people function as active citizens rather than as passive subjects. The presenter further observed that "market mechanisms do not necessarily resolve central problems of politicization, accountability, participation and capacity building. If anything, Caribbean local government systems may require a mix of management approaches".

Workshop participants were urged to "rethink" their approaches to local governance. They should, the presenter advised, think "dangerously", "in opposites" and in "upside down" fashion since, in his opinion, conventional approaches had not worked. Thinking should be visionary, long term and critical. This form of thinking, he noted, carried powerful policy and management implications for governance at the local and community level.

b. Caribbean Local Government: Development and Economic Issues, by Dr. Neville Duncan, UWI, Cave Hill

This presenter argued the point that Caribbean local governments or local governance structures should have a special mandate to help eradicate poverty, food insecurity and joblessness. The aim should be to provide local work for local people in local areas and communities.

The view was expressed that the State in the Caribbean had a vital role to play in seeking to achieve the collective good of society, and that local State institutions also had a critical responsibility to undertake some of the functions which currently bog down state actors operating at the national level. In the opinion of the presenter, local government is well situated between central government and non-state actors and their organizations to play a meaningful role in community development and poverty reduction, effectively contributing to the wealth of the nation. Thus the point was emphasized that local government should not be bypassed in the haste to create parallel institutions.

A central argument of this presenter was that local government in the Caribbean should be given financial autonomy, as well as status in national constitutions. They should likewise be explicitly regarded as community development agencies. In commenting on the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the presenter noted that most do not have the resources or capacity to undertake major projects on a sustained basis. As such, they must be regarded as co-partners with State and local government bodies rather than as their competitors.

The critical role identified for local government bodies in the context of the new international economic order was as a component of a new economic system, designated "the third economic way". It was considered that there was much scope for this in the Caribbean, where the focus of local government activity should be to generate internally directed initiatives which create employment and help eradicate poverty.

The presenter concluded: "The reformed state, it is hoped, would recognize the necessity to transfer a significant proportion of the national revenues to villages and rural areas and adopt a third sector economic development approach which would provide local work for local people in local communities. In all of these processes, non-state sectors will find an appropriate place with central and local government to defend and realize national sovereignty, achieve social equity and protect human rights in the face of the awesome changes occurring in a rapidly re-structuring world yet to become, in any significant measure, globalized."

c. The Ombudsman and Effective Local Public Administration, by Dr. Derrick McKoy and Dr. Yvonne Stone, UWI, Mona

This presentation and accompanying paper outlined advantages and disadvantages of local government as well as the benefits to be derived from the institution of the Ombudsman as an effective arbiter in public administration, including at the local level.

In listing advantages of local government, the presenter mentioned: leadership training; provision of outlets for broader or unique expressions of views and behavior than might be accommodated at national government level; ownership of the policy-making processes at the community level. On the side of disadvantages, while local government could and does breed venality, corruption and the abuse of power, it was considered that its positive potential outweighs these possible drawbacks.

The presenter considered that the powers and function of the Ombudsman, including: powers of investigation, commanding information, bringing contentious issues to public attention, interceding on behalf of citizens, were invaluable services in public administration, and could even be viewed as a type of legal aid. The manner in which the institution operates is free of the constraints posed by courtroom procedures such as rules of evidence, considerations of locus standi, among others.

The presenter was of the view that the Ombudsman institution has not realized its inherent potential, and, in several countries in which it has been established, suffers from chronic difficulties such as shortages of human and financial resources and public ignorance of the role and functions of the Ombudsman, among others.


2. Fundamental Themes

An important aspect of the Workshop was the exchange of state-of-the-art information among the Permanent Secretaries and officials present on policies and innovations in the areas of decentralization, local governance and citizen participation in their respective countries. Presentations were followed by the commentary of a discussant, usually from among the other senior officials present, who elaborated on areas of particular interest, expressed agreement or disagreement with specific points, cited additional examples or cases, and generally complemented the presentation. Taking into account the information obtained from the national presentations, background discussion papers and the views expressed on these, as well as deliberations in the micro-workshops, it can be said that the Workshop focussed on the following key themes:

Against the backdrop of the numerous local governance and community participation experiences in the Caribbean, there was not always consensus nor clear-cut conclusions on these themes by Workshop participants. Nonetheless, it was generally agreed that they are among the major themes to be taken into consideration in policy formulation for decentralization, strengthening local governance and promoting community participation.

a. Decentralization

Participants generally agreed with the point in the paper of Professor Jones that successful local governance requires that decentralization go beyond a simple transfer of power and responsibilities from central to local levels. It would involve the re-design of structures, procedures and practices that change the orientations of stakeholders, and deliver appropriate needs-based goods and services. Decentralization should be accompanied by systems of multiple accountability reinforced by appropriate audit devices. Such systems would require direct answerability downward to clients for performance, use of resources, enforcement of rules of the game, and protection of personal rights. There was general agreement that institution of policies aimed at strengthening civil society and community participation is essential for successful local governance. Social capital, reflected in the willingness and ability of communities to work together for common purposes, is vital to all of these processes.

b. Development

A major challenge in the sub-region is promotion of sustainable local development. Successful local development must spring from local initiative, official or State facilitation and market principles; it was considered that this process was achievable through the local government framework. The process must be oriented to achieving economic growth, social equity, organizational capability and community empowerment.

It was considered that certain strategies could effectively promote a nexus between local governance and sustainable development. One such strategy was advocated by the academic sector, namely legislating local governments as economic development agencies, mandated to help eradicate poverty, food security and unemployment. This type of strategy emphasizes a "third sector" approach to development, that provides "local work for local people in local communities". In this model, primacy would be given to micro project development as policy experiments. The special challenge noted by proponents of the model would be to impart project management skills, protect against the capture of these economic units by external forces and ensure that NGOs, the State and communities work as genuine partners.

c. Communitarianism

The Workshop analyzed a definition of the term "communitarianism, which was, in essence, understood to be community empowerment. Communitarianism seeks to confront and resolve problems by community discourse and action. It recognizes that the community is the essential stakeholder and must be ultimately responsible for its own development processes. The communitarian approach requires sound leadership, a community development mission and action programs, dedicated resources and institutional connectedness with the people.

d. Capacity Building

It was generally agreed that local government and local governance systems in the sub-region suffer "capacity gaps", and that capacity building is a major priority. It was agreed that capacity building could be defined, in the terms presented in the background paper of Professor Jones, as a process through which individuals, groups and institutions increase, over time, their ability to comprehend and deal with their development needs. In this respect, it involves a process of personal, social and organizational change that depends on individual, local and institutional energy, commitment and ownership. In other words, capacity building is an action-based, continuous learning process in which stakeholders shape their own development, building appropriate commitments. This requires certain institutional, normative and human resource pre-conditions which, might be termed "building blocks".

e. Ombudsmanship

The Workshop agreed that local governance and community-based development are only possible within a framework of rights and justice. The institution of the Ombudsman could help to strengthen this framework. It was considered that Ombudsman institutions, both at the national or local level, could review cases of local level mal-administration and generally contribute to ensuring ethical and transparent public administration. The Ombudsman institution could, within the limits of its jurisdiction, assist in developing a somewhat less formalized justice machinery, capable of providing some measure of legal aid within local communities.

Minimum conditions seen as necessary for a supportive environment for effective ombudsmanship included:

1. An alert and informed public, sensitive to its rights and oriented to collective community action;

2. An institution adequately resourced in terms of finances, personnel, physical infrastructure and public accessibility;

3. Powers to enforce decisions;

4. Parliamentary review and debate of Ombudsman reports.


3. Main Messages from the Discussions

Workshop participants identified several factors presenting challenges to the development of effective local governance in the Caribbean. These include:

• Strong centralization. Participants felt that local communities needed to recoup the capacity to make an input into decisions which affect them. This would help to counteract a sense of community alienation and apathy, often reflected in low turnout at local government elections, and in the reluctance on the part of citizens to take part in community development activities. Over-zealous party politics at the local level could also have a negative impact on local governance.

• Lack of human and material resources. While local governments need to be equipped for effective operation, exclusive pursuit of the goals of efficiency and cost reduction would ran the risk of leaving local authorities severely underresourced. This approach was felt to be in need of re-assessment in favor of more sustainable solutions.

• Reluctance on the part of some central bureaucracies to relinquish what is seen as their turf and power. There seems to be only a dim perception that the role of central authorities is not diminished, but rather transformed, by decentralization and local governance processes. Central authority is essential for overall national cohesion and general policy coordination, particularly in certain sectors such as the environment, health, education, among others.

• Lack of dynamism in local government bureaucracies, some of which may prefer to adhere to the status quo, contriving to discourage community participation and input into local public policy issues and priorities.

Notwithstanding these challenges, there was general agreement on the positive potential of local governance and community participation, particularly if given a supportive operating environment. The following elements were seen as essential in fostering such an environment:

Civil society must be mobilized, not only in support of local governance, but also as the hub of its operation. Local authorities require training in this respect, given that effective local governance encompasses not only the management of physical infrastructure (water, electricity, garbage, roads, among others) but also demands vision, creativity and dynamic leadership to energize the community which it serves.

Several important points were also made with regard to the Ombudsman institution in the Caribbean:



Conclusions and Recommendations

1. General Needs

The deliberations of the Workshop indicated that while the Caribbean sub-region was making positive progress in strengthening local governance and promoting community participation, there are numerous needs and priorities in this area which could benefit from technical assistance and horizontal cooperation. Some of the general needs articulated in the Workshop are as follows:


Specifically mentioned in relation to training were workshops on local development; local project formulation, implementation and management; management of local facilities and infrastructure; workshops for new mayors, councilors and other officials working at the local and community levels; workshops for regional Ombudsmen; short term courses in local governance issues for all actors at the local government and community levels.


2. Priorities for the Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local
Government and Citizen Participation

Notwithstanding the importance attributed to all of the above, the Workshop agreed that, for the purposes of the UPD "Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation" a focussed approach would be most appropriate in light of present resources. Participants thus indicated that, for the Caribbean component of this Program, the following areas should be priorities for attention:

The UPD was requested by the Workshop to formulate a program of activities, in collaboration with other agencies, based on the discussions and recommendations of the Workshop, to assist in meeting the needs of CARICOM/OAS Member States in decentralization, local government and local governance and citizen participation; to report periodically on progress made; and to consider a follow-up meeting at an appropriate time.

Participants at the meeting formed the nucleus of a network of officials and resource personnel working on issues of local governance and civil society participation, a network which will be expanded as the Program of Cooperation is developed.





Workshop on

"Local Government,

Communitarianism and the Citizen:

Opportunities and Challenges"

Kingston, Jamaica

June 8-9, 1998


List of Participants


Mrs. Victorine George-Alexander Acting Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs

State Insurance Building

Redcliffe Street

St. John's

Antigua and Barbuda



Mr. Harrison Thompson Undersecretary

Department of Local Government

P.O. Box N 3040


Commonwealth of the Bahamas



Mr. Carlyle Carter Permanent Secretary

Prime Minister's Office

Government Headquarters

Bay Street

St. Michael




Mr. Stephen Blais Country Representative

Canadian International Development Agency


Canadian High Commission

30 Knutsford Boulevard


Jamaica 5

Ms. Carol Kerfoot First Secretary (Development)

Canadian International Development Agency


Canadian High Commission

30-36 Knutsford Boulevard

Kingston 5




Mr. Alfred Leevy Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Community Development

and Women's Affairs

Government Headquarters


Commonwealth of Dominica



Mr. Roshan Ali Regional Executive Officer/C.L.G. & R.D.0

Triumph Government Compound

East Coast Demerara


Mr. Gerard Rutherford Regional Executive Officer

5 Yorkshire Hall


East Coast Demerara




Mr. Paul Harry Voltaire Director of Local Collectivities

Impasse Bellevue #2





Ms. Anne Marie Bonner Principal Director

Policy Analysis and Review Unit

Office of the Prime minister/Cabinet Office

1 Devon Road

Kingston 10


Mr. Lincoln Evans Director

Administration and Human Resource


Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation

24 Church Street



Mrs. Barbara James Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Local Government, Youth and

Community Development

85 Hagley Park Road

Kingston 10


Mrs. Schatzi McCarthy Senior Project Specialist

Ministry of Local Government, Youth and

Community Development

85 Hagley Park Road

Kingston 10


Mr. Keith Miller Consultant on Local Government Reform

Ministry of Local Government, Youth and

Community Development

85 Hagley Park Road

Kingston 10


Ms. Collette Robinson Programme Officer

Planning Institute of Jamaica

8 Ocean Boulevard



Ms. Patricia Snow Director

Ministry of Water

6 St. Lucia Avenue

Kingston 5




Mr. Elvin Bailey Chief Secretary

Premier's Ministry

Administration Building



Saint Kitts and Nevis

Mr. Joseph Edmeade Chief Secretary

Government Headquarters

Church Street


Saint Kitts and Nevis



Mrs. Jacinta St. Helene Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Community Development,

Co-operatives, Local Government and Culture

Government Buildings

The Waterfront


Saint Lucia

Ms. Lawrence Laurent Parliamentary Commissioner

Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner

Corner. Micoud and Bourbon Streets

P.O. Box 1139


Saint Lucia



Mr. Noel Cooke Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Housing, Local Government,

Youth, Sports and Community Services


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines



Mr. Paul Rogers Deputy Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Regional Development

Van Roosevelt Kade #2





Mr. Joseph-Allard Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Local Government

Kent House

Long Circular Road


Port of Spain

Trinidad and Tobago

Mr. Terrance Jurawan Local Government Planning Officer

Ministry of Local Government

Kent House

Long Circular Road


Port of Spain

Trinidad and Tobago



Mr. Charles Skeete Senior Advisor

Strategic Planning and Operational

Policy Department

Inter-American Development Bank

1300 New York Ave., N.W.

Washington D.C. 20577





Dr. Chelston Brathwaite Country Representative

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation

on Agriculture

Hope Gardens

Kingston 6




Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas Assistant Secretary General

Organization of American States

17 th and Constitution Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20006


Ms. Anne-Marie Blackman Senior Specialist

Unit for the Promotion of Democracy

Organization of American States

1889 F Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20006




Professor Rex Nettleford Deputy Vice-Chancellor

University of the West Indies

Mona Campus

Kingston 7


Dr. Neville Duncan Senior Lecturer

Department of Government, Sociology

and Social Work

University of the West Indies

Cave Hill Campus

P.O.Box 64



Dr. Elsie Le Franc Director

Institute of Social and Economic Research

University of the West Indies


Kingston 7


Professor Edwin Jones Professor of Public Administration

Department of Government

Faculty of the Social Sciences

University of the West Indies


Kingston 7


Dr. Derrick McKoy Lecturer in Law

University of the West Indies

P.O. Box 148


Kingston 7


Professor Gladstone Mills Emeritus Professor of Public


University of the West Indies


Kingston 7




National Advisory Council on Local

Government Reform


Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath Lecturer

University of the West Indies

St. Augustine

Trinidad and Tobago

Professor Selwyn Ryan University Director

Institute of Social and Economic Research

University of the West Indies

St. Augustine

Trinidad and Tobago

Ivan Cruickshank Graduate Students,

Denise Hunter Department of Government

Maxine Jackson University of the West Indies

Norma Williams Mona, Kingston, Jamaica










Kingston, Jamaica, June 8,1998

Ambassador Christopher Thomas, Assistant Secretary General, Organisation of American States; Professor Rex Nettleford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UW1; Mrs. Barbara James, 'Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Youth and Community Development, Permanent Secretaries, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First, let me welcome everyone to this workshop on Local Government, Communitarianism, and the Citizen. I believe that it is the first time that the Institute of Social [and Economic Research will host a workshop of this nature; that is, one which will speak to the issues of local government, and one which has been able to pull together such a distinguished [collection of technical experts as we have here today. When the OAS approached us to ask for [our collaboration in this venture, the speed of our positive response was probably almost indecent. But we agreed to be involved as the principal executing body because we consider the topics to be discussed over the next two days to be of such tremendous importance.

For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when it was commonly believed - at least in our part of the world - that if the political kingdom were sought first, all else would be added. Harsh experience has shown otherwise, and now that we must confront the current fascination with, and belief in, the minimalist state, the imperative of the market, and the all-embracing character of the wider global forces, it is necessary to examine - in as frank and realistic a manner as possible - the appropriate role and functions of the state at central and local levels. This should be done while always bearing in mind the resource limitation of the countries 'in the region, and the importance of maintaining and even revitalising the democratic traditions to which we have all become accustomed.

It is now quite obvious to most of us that the development process in the Caribbean is in a bit of a quagmire at the present time. Some countries are more bogged down than others, and in a few cases, movement would appear to be backwards. However, gone are - or, should be - the days when a blaming finger could be easily and quickly pointed at the terrible colonials and imperialists. As Lloyd Best asked some years ago, "What is the problem? We are in charge!" We really need therefore to look more closely at ourselves in the mirror, and as we seek to find 'institutional arrangements that will better facilitate the development process, we need to try to identify those forms of governance that are relevant and workable in the Caribbean region. As we seek to identify and implement these, it is also necessary to hope that the fact of being "in charge" will by now enable us to have the confidence to - without guilt, anxiety and misplaced bravado - learn from others and reject what may not be considered appropriate.

It is because of our belief in the importance of this topic that we at ISER have incorporated this whole area as a vital part of our research portfolio. In this regard, I wish to pay special tribute to Dr, Neville Duncan, who - during his tenure as Acting Director of ISER (Mona) - was responsible for initiating and promoting this activity in the Caribbean. We are therefore really delighted to be able to collaborate with the OAS in this endeavour.

However, having stated what I consider to be some of the general issues and needs in respect of this particular matter of local government, let me quickly emphasise that a workshop of this kind has, of necessity, to be more modest in its aims and objectives. Modesty is also required precisely because this is one of our first ventures in this field. This workshop must then be considered to be a "first step" exercise for Caribbean local government policy leaders to extend the discourse on democratic renewal in the Caribbean region. The workshop will also seek to go beyond that, in that it aims to build networks and collegiality within the region's local government sector. Joint action - including the deepening and broadening of relationships with the international agencies of aid and advice will be pursued. Another important aim will be the extension of the mutual learning process by directly focusing on "best" and "worst" practices, and on critical development and implementation issues in the different countries in the region.

The expected outcomes of these two days of deliberations are specific. It is hoped that possible solutions and options in priority areas will be identified, and that participants will be able to design a "next steps" agenda from the range of ideas to be presented and discussed at this workshop. Some possibilities that can be considered are as follows:

a) The design and promotion of a programme of institutional strengthening and capacity building for national government decentralisation agencies, and civil society institutions;

b) The increased availability of regional expertise in certain areas;

c) The identification of possible projects for social and economic development at the local level; and

d) The development of regionally focused training methodologies.

From these aims and objectives, the overall idea will be to develop a programme of work, and a body of knowledge that can serve as a basis for policy formulation and teaching. It is further hoped that out of this exercise will come clear indications about the research priorities that should inform the ongoing work around these topics and issues. One important start in the effort to advantageously integrate research and teaching may be seen in the involvement of graduate students from the Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI, as rapporteurs and resources persons. We consider this to be a very important aspect of their training process.

In closing this very brief welcoming note, let me wish you a very productive two days, and we certainly look forward to the outputs of your deliberations at this Workshop.










Kingston, Jamaica, 8 June 1998

The question of citizen participation in government has always been a driving force for change. It is a question that has created social upheavals and even revolutions at the national and community levels in many parts of the world. The history of humankind is strewn with examples of feudal societies yielding to more open and participatory democracies, passing at times through oppressive non-participatory monarchies and dictatorships.

Much of the violence of the twentieth century at the global level and the regional, subregional or national levels - in the form of armed conflict, trade wars, civil unrest, social upheavals and destabilization -has taught humanity some important lessons. We have learnt many things. In the realm of governance and social management, we have learnt that informed and broadbased participation founded on principles of justice and concern for the common good are ultimately essential to peace and stability. We have also learnt, especially in these last years of the twentieth century, that social and political structures cannot be static, that as a society, or rather the very culture of humanity itself, they are evolutionary and in constant need of adaptation, review, and reform.

The Caribbean is a different world today from that of the colonial period, which established the foundations of Caribbean social structures, governments, and administrative and legislative institutions. The globalization that we are experiencing has left all our communities open and vulnerable. It has also provoked mutations not only in our social fabric, but also in the way we think and act and interpret events around us. We can even dare to speak of the "new Caribbean person" who must confront a new age, a new reality and, indeed, a new future. Such are the challenges which, as individual nations and as a collective sub-regional entity, the Caribbean must confront in its efforts to preserve and foster the true democratic ideal. That is why the conference that begins here today on the theme Local Government, Communitarianism, and the Citizen: Opportunities and Challenges is so important.

I congratulate the government of Jamaica for its role, in conjunction with the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy of our Organization of American states, in organizing this conference. I note with appreciation the role played by Jamaica, in conjunction with Uruguay, in the preparation of the theme on Civil Society for the recent Second Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, in April 1998.

This conference is a follow-up to the meeting held in Barbados in September 1997, on the topic Governance, Democracy, and Civil Society in the Caribbean Community. At that conference a number of conclusions and recommendations were adopted which, we hope, this present conference will serve to advance. Since the last conference in Barbados, the Second Summit of the Americas has engaged new responsibilities in the area of 'Civil Society and the Democratic Process.' Today's conference, the first since the Summit, is particularly important from two perspectives: it challenges the Caribbean to confront its own realities in the light of evolving circumstances, and it can also set the pace of things to come for the rest of the Hemisphere where similar exercises will follow.

The theme of this conference focuses on local government. The thrust, therefore, can only be the identification and development of mechanisms and instruments, which will advance the process of decentralization so as to re-empower local government institutions to execute certain basic functions within the community. In strengthening the structure and function of local government, civil participation in the democratic process will be broadened beyond the ballot box at a general election. A more immediate sense of responsibility for, and involvement in the political and democratic process will be introduced and an environment will be created to reverse the increasing indifference, which is affecting most modem democracies.

At the recently concluded general elections in the Dominican Republic, the Organization of American States called attention to the political authorities of that country at the very low turnout of the general electorate. This is one illustration of the increasing indifference of our population to the democratic process.

Douglas Payne, in his recent paper on Democracy in the Western Hemisphere into the Next Century, identifies other reasons for disillusionment with the democratic process. He cites a lack of the rule of law, compromised judiciaries, systematic corruption, poverty, and the increasing pervasiveness of the use of illicit drugs.

In a world that is rapidly intensifying the nature of "virtual" relationship at every level of social interaction, the tendency is for people to establish deeper contact with their computer and those who have access to one, than with the immediate environment in which they live. For example, anyone in any of our villages and any part of our cities for that matter, who has access to the Internet, can be more in tune with what goes on farther afield than be concerned with developments around his immediate geographical area. In a situation where responsibility for these developments are extremely removed for those directly affected, the indifference that this can generate can be dangerous for the future of the entire country.

With globalization and the technological revolution, no area of the world is inaccessible. This means that wherever there seems to be some vacuum to be filled, it will be filled. What we must ensure is that at the level of our local communities, these needs are met by those most immediately affected, whose day-to-day lives are affected by policy decisions, and whose involvement and contribution serve to strengthen the democratic process at the national level.

In today's rapidly advancing world of market economies, we all agree that a major condition for economic advancement is the development of strong and stable democracies, the entrenchment of open and solid juridical and legislative systems, just administrative structures, and a government that is accountable to the citizen body which elected it to serve. The ideal is not to introduce those elements as a canopy enveloping the social framework of society but rather as a force, which mushrooms from the terrain of the local communities and spreads out to envelop the entire nation.

These are the objectives, I understand, that this conference seeks to enhance and consolidate in our region of the Caribbean. Your presence here today is testimony of the desire of each of your countries to explore ways to create a more just and participatory social order and governance. You are also the means by which such improvements on existing systems can be set in motion. As senior officials in departments of local government and related fields, your wealth of experience qualifies you to make fairly accurate assessments of your own individual national situation. Details will vary from country to country, but generally all the countries of the region stand to benefit from increased community participation and empowerment in the area of government through revalorization of local government

One of the greatest challenges for increased empowerment of local government and a broadening of community participation, is the risk of party political loyalties paralyzing the effectiveness of these bodies with consequent increasing division and rivalries in those communities. It is critical, therefore, to ensure that local governments be as objective and nonpartisan as possible so that through their efficiency in dealing with local issues, communities can be enriched in terms of the local functions of government, and also in terms of the requisite social networking to weed out corruption and advance the interests of the entire community. This clearly is one social function where the opportunities for success are undeniably far more compelling than the complexities of its challenges.

The Caribbean enjoys a cultural tradition of neighborliness, community-based involvement, volunteerism, dedication, and sacrifice, which are important elements on which the local government exercise can draw. Our own history informs that people are always prepared to come forward in the interest of the common good, provided they discern the presence of honesty, genuine selflessness, and fair play.

This is especially so today when everyone is aware of the dangers which our communities face, when concern for the future becomes every day more acute, when society everywhere seems increasingly imperiled, where leadership motivation is constantly questioned and where a search and reassertion are essential to a reconstruction of societal awareness and consciousness. Two months ago, in Washington, a Caribbean seminar on future leadership and the leadership qualities that most motivated Caribbean youth revealed the attributes of commitment, cause, and involvement.

It is my belief that these qualities are prevailing viewpoints. It is also my belief that democracy will not survive and cannot be advanced without the effective participation of civil society. A participation that must be founded on principles of justice for the future development of communities as a whole. This is a fundamental obligation on all those who seek and have been elected to govern.

We are, therefore, all involved in a responsibility to enkindle these values throughout the Caribbean. We can do so here by formulating the proposals, launching the initiatives and inviting participation for the ultimate results.

The Heads of State and Government of the entire hemisphere have pledged their support for civil society. The Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean have made a commitment to that cause. Conditions and circumstances are therefore cogent to its pursuit.

I thank the government of Jamaica for this most important initiative and I thank you for your participation. Best wishes for a successful outcome of your meeting in the interest of effective democracy throughout the region.










Kingston, Jamaica, 8 June, 1998

I bring greetings from the Vice Chancellor and the University of the West Indies, which by its very nature and stated remit has a vested interest in the promotion of local government and the implications for civil society and democratic governance. This particular exercise comes on the eve of proffered local government elections in Jamaica. These elections carry their own burden of concerns about fairness and frequency in the light of the urgent need for electoral reform and the repeated postponement of the event in order to get things right.

With the delay, comes the reinforcement of the view that any contemplation of a future for this country that treasures individual freedom, believes in the right and capacity of the citizenry to direct its own destiny, and in the integrity in representational government to achieve this, must foster and promote a culture of partnership as a guiding principle towards democratic governance.

Such "partners" are mainly the State (as hub, nexus or broker), the private sector (comprising employers and managers workers and their trade unions, operators of big business and micro-entrepreneurs) and the people-at-large mobilised for people-based thought and action. "Such tripartite, coordinated approach to governance," as I have said elsewhere, "deserves serious application consonant with the aspirations of participatory democracy and the optimization of productivity for a well-educated, highly skilled and culturally confident human resource base", on which the future of the entire Caribbean depends.

The local government mechanism is a tried-and-tested, guaranteed modality for achieving this. Communitarianism as an "ism" is not without its detractors, especially where it makes exaggerated claims for its potential for meeting the harsh realities of a world which in its increasingly "globalised" form transforms the simplest local demand into a complex issue that speaks to factors beyond national and regional boundaries.

But no one can complain with what we might simply call "community action" as an integral part of the mix of modalities serving a modem civil society.

The West Indies is no stranger to this. Who can forget "Free Villages" like Sligoville and Buxton in Guyana? But for this, the post-Emancipation period could not have served the relatively orderly transition from slavery to freedom for the vast majority. The early self-government movement wisely settled for community development even before the establishment of political parties, or of representative government elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. And those of us who grew up with vestries and municipalities or parochial boards (later renamed parish councils in Jamaica) had a real chance for ready dialogue with local representatives whom we actually saw, and who lived among us, before we sent elected members to Parliament in our nations' capitals which tend to keep them out of sight until near general elections.

We are also no strangers to a perverse and deliberate programme of emasculation of the local government system. And all in the name of efficiency which, paradoxically, is not necessarily the linchpin of democracy. Many a dictatorship (like the one presided over by Hitler and that other system engineered in South Africa by the Apartheid regimes) turned out to be far more operationally efficient than established democracies in the short run. Investment in local government is an investment in human capability for self-governance over the long haul in building a nation and shaping a society.

Local government becomes necessary for yet another reason. Whatever the claims of market-forces, whatever the reason cited for the dismal decline of the old Soviet empire built on statism, the citizens' easy and inexpensive access to primary healthcare, running water, education, decent housing, good roads - all hallmarks of social justice, equity and the building of self-esteem - remain on the agenda of humankind's concern. The hijacking of all these basic community responsibilities by a central government into a national monopoly by this or that party has served to deprive local communities of a sense of purpose all over the region, and has resulted in a certain cynicism duly exploited by talk shows in Jamaica, and for which we are now paying dearly.

To less-count the ordinary citizens' own understanding of what is involved in their own future, starting with concerns nearest to existence, is to court disaster. Successive administrations have not succeeded in taking them seriously enough on this score, other than as electoral statistics, consumers, anthropological/sociological specimens. The interesting thing about all this is that after centuries on the margin our people have developed fantastic ways of frustrating the powerful. They all know how to make things not work.

The obvious solution to this endemic problem is to genuinely empower the people. Give them back the power to deal with the first line of operation - their community. Restoring to the region the opportunity of dynamic community action as a central part of the strategy of growth and development is therefore a major challenge at this time. This makes the agenda for the new millennium, which comes hard on the heels of the next Jamaican local government election, and any other after that, a matter of urgency.

Community action, as part of the development strategy, was at the heart of Norman Manley's political credo. Jamaica Welfare Limited, which predated the founding of the PNP itself, as I earlier indicated, was to be the basis of the self-reliance, patriotism and sense of purpose which informed Jamaican rural and urban life throughout the early self government movement. Trinidad and Tobago itself took an interest in this, as Professor Selwyn Ryan who has documented this fact so well knows.

As basis for people-empowerment in the 1990s, the fostering of community action still has a central place. And the local government mechanism offers an excellent opportunity to realize this. But for this to happen, it will take all the ingenuity of modem state-craft and a certain sensitivity to social dynamics, coupled with a genuine respect for people as the prime source of energy for development and growth. Nothing short of a series of workshops, colloquies, seminars and groundings for sitting local government councilors and those to be newly elected all over the region will help sensitise them to their responsibilities.

The present workshop is none too soon. Let us regard it as preamble to what should be an on-going exercise of education, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation. The University is happy to be associated with any such initiative on making local government work through the mobilisation of energies of the mass of the population, who exist beyond being consumers or statistical units on voting lists.

What a splendid opportunity, indeed, to have politics again make sense for the many it once served so well.

I thank you.



Opening Address by

Mrs. Barbara James, Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Local Government, Youth

and Community Development


Kingston, Jamaica, June 8,1998










  1. Madame Chairperson, Dr. Elsie Le Franc, Director Institute of Social and Economic Research, UWI; Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, Assistant Secretary General, OAS; Mrs. Joan Neil, Director, Office of OAS in Kingston and Ms. Anne-Marie Blackman, Senior Specialist, Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, OAS; Deputy Vice-Chancellor Rex Nettleford; Professor Edwin Jones and other members of the UWI; Representatives of the various donor and funding agencies present; Mayors, Councilors and representatives of the various Central and Local Government agencies from the Caribbean region; distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: It is with distinct pleasure that I undertake the pleasant task of bringing greetings to this very important and pioneering Workshop, on behalf of the Honourable Arnold Bertram, Minister of Local Government Youth and Community Development. The Minister is unfortunately unable to attend himself, but sends his profound regret and also his best wishes for a successful and productive Workshop. He has asked me to extend the following greeting on his behalf
  2. I would first like to extend a very warm welcome, on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, to all participants in this Workshop, and in particular to our visitors from neighbouring Caribbean countries, as well as representatives of all the different international agencies, countries and institutions which are sharing in this event.
  3. I would also like to express the appreciation of the Government to the sponsors of the Workshop - the OAS, and in particular the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, for the decision to hold this Workshop, and for choosing this region, and Jamaica, for staging what we understand to be the first of a series of similar Workshops to be held throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. We take this as an indication of the OAS' strong commitment to supporting initiatives to improve the process of governance in the Region, and a recognition that such initiatives are most likely to succeed if they are approached on a regional basis, by sharing experiences and attempting to develop common policy prescriptions for meeting the challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities which present themselves. We also want to express appreciation to the organizers, the Institute of Social and Economic Research and other Departments of the UW I, who have taken on a difficult task and have obviously done an excellent job in making the arrangements for the staging of the Workshop.
  4. The staging of the Workshop is very timely, and its theme and the issues which are to be addressed indicate that it will be of great interest and value to Jamaica, and to the Ministry of Local Government, Youth and Community Development in particular. The present Government has both stated and demonstrated its belief in and commitment to the creation of a strong and vibrant system of decentralized local administration, through policy initiatives in respect to Local Government Reform and the empowerment of communities and civil society, for which policies this Ministry has the primary mandate.
  5. The Ministry of Local Government, Youth and Community Development (MLG, Y&CD) brings under one umbrella the subjects of Local Government and the reform of that system, as well as Community. Development, Youth and Culture. This reflects the Government's conviction that the objective of creating a strong and effective system of local government can only be achieved through the active and direct participation of civil society in the process of local governance, and further, that the processes of local governance and effective and sustainable community development are inextricably bound together. This Ministry therefore has as its focal objective the transformation of the Local Government system to enable it to successfully take on the task of effective local self management of the functions assigned to this level of government, and to forge a participatory model of local governance, in which local communities and civil society are empowered to function as effective partners in this process.
  6. The Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP) represents the Government's major policy initiative towards achieving this objective, and this is supported by a general policy of promoting and facilitating strong community participation in programme execution in a wide range of national programmes, including environmental and disaster management, public health, security, shelter, etc. The Government has also initiated several projects aimed at supporting community-led development, including the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and the Poverty Eradication Programme, all of which seek to encourage significant participation and inputs from the NGO and Community Based Organisations.
  7. The LGRP is essentially a response to a number of historic and contemporary factors, including:

* A long tradition of local government in Jamaica, dating back to 1662.

* A strong conviction on the part of the present Government that an effective system of local government is essential to the deepening and strengthening of our democracy, and to facilitate meaningful participation of citizens in the process of governance,

* Some level of dissatisfaction with the performance of Local Authorities in the past, and therefore the need to bring about significant improvement in their performance, if they are to fill the expectations and demands which they will face in the new paradigm of citizen participation and enhanced local self-management.

8. The LGRP is therefore essentially a local product in terms of design and content.

However, as our own Programme developed, similar programmes have emerged and are currently being pursued in most parts of the world, and especially in this region. We are anxious to benefit from other experiences and the sharing of ideas and knowledge which have emerged in this field, and therefore welcome this Workshop as a means of sharing experiences with our Caribbean brothers, and as an opportunity to develop common policy initiatives and strategies in this area. We look forward to the outcome of the Workshop to be of great assistance to our efforts in respect to local government reform and enhancing the role of civil society in the process of governance.

9. We also note that sharing in this Workshop are representatives of a number of donor and funding agencies, several of whom have already demonstrated their interest and goodwill by providing tangible support to the Government of Jamaica in areas relevant to those which will be discussed during this Workshop. We trust that the Workshop will I serve to reinforce the interest of those who are already involved, and to convince others of the importance and urgency of support for the policy initiatives which we hope will emerge as a consensus from this Workshop.

10. In closing, let me extend good wishes for a successful and productive Workshop, and hope that our visitors will have a most enjoyable stay in our island.







By Professor Edwin Jones,

Professor of Public Administration,

Department of Government, Faculty of Social Sciences,

University of the West Indies, Mona Campus

Kingston, Jamaica



Development strategies in the Caribbean have been changing over time. The transition from narrow colonial objectives to the post-colonial mission of 'development' was somewhat planned. This "development administration" approach experimented with various strategies, but within the framework of old systems of public administration. All the transitional objectives were therefore not met. Conceptually, there was, however, the recognition that socio-economic progress required better articulated forms of decentralized government. Practice, however, was mostly halting. Guided by the international policy network of aid and advice, significant policy shifts have been made toward 'market-led development' since the 1980s, although some role in addressing community needs was defined for institutions of local government.

This has been the general approach to institution building and policy development across the Commonwealth Caribbean, with some variations. This paper is mainly concerned with reexamining certain concepts and strategies needed to aid the transition from current practices of local government to norms of local governance. Objectively, the context or 'task environment' is indifferent, if not resistant to change. It also suffers from technical incapacity and over-bureaucratization



Caribbean state systems have historically been committed to strong centralizing impulses in Public Administration. Normally, the centre assumes control for performance of the whole system, exercising responsibility for the establishment of administrative standards, strategies, priorities as well as resources. In effect, it meant avoidance of meaningful power sharing, unequal power structures and central control over local communities (Mills: 9).

Within this general centralized format, symbolic forms of 'local government' have survived for "hundreds of years". Initially, they served as convenient centres for collegial interaction among local elites. Later they functioned to accommodate alliances between partisan representatives, state bureaucrats and community notables. In these roles, they neither represented popular needs and expectations nor reflected meaningful accountability. Nonetheless, within the symbolic, formal system, certain voluntary and mostly independent institutional networks continued to help build local problem-solving capacity (Robotham: 11).

Commitment to fully developed local government systems would remain lop-sided for a long time. Duncan's (2: pp 41-43) typology of Caribbean local government systems as 'legal/constitutional', 'informal', 'non-existent', and some as embracing 'entire island' units, underscores this claim. There was accordingly much ambivalence on the question of what such systems would deliver. Supporters claimed that systems of local government would advance values of "development and good government". In particular, they would expand opportunities for self-determination, capacity building and participation in decision-making at the community level. In addition, they would help improve the economic and social life of the rural poor. Further, they were expected to improve the managerial aspects of government: their efficiency, accountability and responsiveness. Moreover, especially in the states of cultural pluralism and racial bifurcation, it was anticipated that local-level government would weaken these and other 'historical particularisms'. Those opposed to experimenting with such systems tended mainly to rationalize their position on grounds of inappropriateness for states of small size, fear of 4 capture' by the political opposition and as bad policy, in a context of financial stringency or insufficiency.

This culture of ambivalence, resource starvation and a record of under-performance have helped to undermine institutional legitimacy. In normal times, most have functioned as 44 ... system with responsibility without power." Normally, they have been denied necessary autonomy and have therefore been kept in a constant state of uncertainty. Some have suffered drastic diminution of power, suspension of activities and dissolution. In between, a series of political, management and ethical crises has also undermined capacity for effective management. Such situations merely complicate their well-known reactive, politicized and bureaucratized styles of action. Much cynicism is engendered by this framework that continues to reflect dependence on central government, seeming indifference toward local needs, and powerlessness of the people to make local authorities responsive.

Thirdly, regional local government systems have consistently embraced a limited and limiting vision of reform. This approach is evident from at least three perspectives. In the first place, the reform agenda has mostly ignored long-standing, structural problems related to accountability, unequal local power structures and continuing irritant central-local relations. The dominance of over-developed central bureaucracies and weaknesses in civil society complicate the situation. Secondly, the local government reform process has relied heavily on symbolism. A main vehicle of symbolic reform being the Commission of Enquiry and Review Committees, used passively. It has been passive in the sense that few, if any, of its significant recommendations have been implemented. Problems associated with implementation have mainly remained by default. Otherwise they have been addressed slowly, in piecemeal fashion, or prompted either by external forces or domestic crises.

Fourthly, the local government reform process has never seriously contemplated, much less implemented, the ideals of local governance. Local governance is about "people power". It thrives on arrangements of co-management, using government as one instrument. It confronts and resolves problems by community discourse and action. It seeks to provide services not to the public, but for the public and with the public. Put another way, community governance looks outward to the community it serves rather than inward to the bureaucracy. It recognizes that it is responsible and accountable to the community, so ultimately the community governs it.

A distinctive characteristic of the region's local government tradition then, is its negative image. In the public perception, it is a main centre of institutionalized corruption and venality. Because it may be a convenient 'pork barrel' for ruling parties and their supporters, it is never a prime candidate for thorough-going reform. Because public attitudes and opinions are not effectively mobilized against corruption, it escapes sustained scrutiny. Because local officials themselves may benefit from the existing institutional and procedural arrangements, they see little or no need to 'professionalize' the system. Growing public perception and knowledge of internal waste and mismanagement have compounded this image problem. Only reliance on an alternative set of concepts and reform tools would be able to convert these structures into genuine community or service organizations.



In recent times, governments and the international policy network have been emphasizing decentralization, accountability and governance within the framework of 'civil society,' as the essential building blocks for development. These structures and processes may be built and practiced at the local-level. Their implementation, however, is not likely to be problem-free.

(a) Decentralization

As development practitioners continue to emphasize the promotion of economic growth, social equity and organizational capacity for meeting the basic needs of the poor, widespread participation in decision making and decentralization are seen as appropriate strategies. Decentralized systems of local government make accountability possible because citizens are more likely "to have direct encounters with, and can exercise control over, government organizations".. Local institutions are more strategically placed to know the specific needs of local citizens and to "deliver appropriate needs-based goods and services" (Haque: 6). Local level decision-makers that know their context are best able to provide services and solve problems with a higher degree of responsiveness.

In the conventional sense, decentralization is usually applied as a mechanical movement of power from central to local government. That approach has not enhanced local self-governance capacity. For decentralization to generate responsiveness, enhance popular participation and promote equitable access, it must be conceptualized somewhat differently. In particular, the process must involve re-design of structures, procedures and practices that change the consciousness and orientations of stakeholders. In short, it must enhance capacity locally and at the centre. Decentralization gains its force when it involves programme and policy innovation and the building of a culture of implementation (UNDP: 15; Global Forum: p3 1). None of that would be possible without a supporting agenda for improving management techniques and practices as well as human capital.

Development practitioners insist that stakeholder consciousness about decentralized decision-making must necessarily include awareness of its "costs and benefits" (See for example, (UNDP: 15; Global Forum: 1996; p. 19). The benefits include:

• "Facilitating greater popular participation;

• Increasing efficiency in determining service demand;

• Increasing flexibility of government in the presence of hanging circumstances;

• Enhancing the capacity to tailor solutions for local problems to local conditions;

• Providing the opportunity for a wide variety of innovations, an important precondition for significant policy and programmatic changes;

• Promoting pluralism and dynamism in a society;

• Broadening the potential of societal capacity-building;

• Providing increased accountability to the people".

Potential risks encountered during the implementation process might include:

• "Possible increase in inter-regional inequalities, leading to the potential widening of intra-national poverty gaps and fostering of politically destabilizing forces;

• High risk of resource capture by local elites;

• Possible misuse of authority in an environment of inadequate supervision;

• Inadequate implementation arrangements which can lead to disparity between the revenue available and the responsibilities needed to be carried out, which, in turn, would render local government systems ineffective".

Ultimately, the educated consciousness would make for stronger participation and greater confidence in choice making.

(b) Accountability

As local-level responsibilities expand with decentralization, the necessity for accountability increases. Administrative accountability is one such form. On one level, it is understood as answerability for the efficient performance of assigned functions, This is normally called role accountability. However, when "strongly formalized", the concept extends to "the power of prior approval". This means subjecting internal management decisions to other levels of control and review (Polidano/Hulme: 10). According to the doctrine of the New Public Management, output-based accountability also helps to make local level officials more accountable for results. Typically, this approach relies on the development of a performance monitoring and measuring system. It may involve, as well, the recruitment of top managers based on short-term performance contracts. The contracting of service delivery functions to private sector providers (e.g. garbage collection) represents another available strategy. The extent of reliance on these strategies of output controls should depend on the particular circumstances of context. Considerable internal managerial capability and reliable systems of control are needed to successfully implement such strategies. Most of the region's local government structures lack such capacities.

Direct accountability downward to clients is the central characteristic of administrative accountability. Some countries depend on administrative scrutinizing bodies to ensure this kind of accountability. Various audit and anti-corruption offices, Ombudsmen and the like are some of the more common of such devices. Yet, they may need the reinforcement of considerable political education, to help remove or moderate fear of confronting high profile public officials. Such offices must also be adequately resourced and willing to apply sanctions against proven culprits. To be sure, they must be guaranteed sincere political support.

Political accountability is the midwife of democratization and good governance. It is especially needed in cases of local government systems that are corrupt and politicized; bureaucratically controlled by the centre; and operating in a context where civil society is weak. Yet, the essential 'social foundation' of political accountability comes with "the establishment of institutions that will strengthen accountability to formal norms of conduct". The accountability/democratization process may be deepened through more meaningful public participation in politics, and in a context where personal rights are protected.

Accountability at the local level requires a sensitive, caring, responsive and responsible bureaucracy. Responsible behaviour of the local-level bureaucracy strongly suggests adequate understanding of its role, functions and authority, as well as the nature of local problems. It must be skilled at diagnosing the needs and priorities of local clients. It must evidence commitment to address such problems on a timely basis. That kind of response requires the supporting social foundations of civil society and governance.

(c) Civil Society & Governance

Civil society is now a dominant theme in the on-going discourse on democratization and development administration. This emphasis on mobilizing and strengthening civil society stems partly from widespread dissatisfaction with highly centralized national governments; partly from the re-discovery by the international policy network of the need for civic action to sustain democratic development; and partly also from the availability of non-governmental organizations as development brokers.

For most purposes, civil society is viewed institutionally as the range of national, sub-national, local and community organizations - formal and informal - that fall outside the public realm. It incorporates citizen-initiated political action that seeks to influence the political and policymaking processes'. Equally, it refers to "those groups which are organized outside the state and are autonomous from the state, but which are in contact - either collaborative or antagonistic with the state". The concept is also used to mean the "readiness of citizens to pursue their rights; their willingness to demand better standards of conduct from public figures, and to back up those demands with their votes; and their readiness to act as citizens rather than subjects" (Polidano/Hulme: 10; p.7).

A supportive social environment is needed for the construction of an effective civil society. Some measure of trust, personal security and fairness of governmental transactions are supporting conditions. Social trust is reflected in the willingness or the ability of people to work together for common purposes. They combine not only for economic life, but also for other aspects of social existence. This stock of "social capital" is diminished without co-operation and grows with every act of co-operative activity. As well, social capital helps the government to function more effectively by winning wider cooperation for its laws and policies (Fukuyama: 3; Polidano/Hulme: 10).

Availability of the basic life-sustaining goods, services and opportunities also helps to lay the foundation for the formation of civil society. Where citizens are unable to maintain basic standards of living, they are more likely to become preoccupied with personal survival and less inclined to become involved in civil society issues. Further, in the absence of an environment of social trust and personal security/personal rights, individuals would be unwilling or reluctant to co-operate with others for common purposes and goals. This conceptualization strongly suggests a reinforcing and mutually beneficial relationship between civil society and the local government principle and process. Indeed, a beneficial symbiotic relationship is evident: a vigorous local government system is essential for the flourishing of a strong civil society and equally, a strong civil society is critical for the existence of a creative democratic local government system.

In particular, civil society limits the possibility for arbitrary or abusive state action. Organized groups and individuals would impose checks and balances against such behaviour, via protest, demands for redress or withdrawal of support. In addition, civil society "would extend the reach of the state", enabling it to do more than it would otherwise be able to do. Further, it engenders a wider discourse on governance issues (Polidano/Hulme: 10). Moreover, civil society would augment the state's implementation capacity because of the combined effects of open engagement in dialogue, interactions with multiple social forces, and ability to bring a wider spread of talent to the decision making pool. Weaknesses in civil society yield opposite effects, as they continue to do in the Commonwealth Caribbean region (Jones: 7; Mills: 9; Singh: 14).

Nongovernmental Organizations, (NGOs), have been linked with the emergence and consolidation of civil society. That role, however, is often contested. As against governmental agencies, NGOs are preferred by the international agencies of aid and advice as vehicles for directing aid funds. In practice, they serve as intermediaries in promoting associational life at the grass roots. They have been instrumental, at that level, in sharpening advocacy skills; enhancing community research capacity; directing the distribution of money, goods and services; strengthening self-reliance, while weakening dependence on the state. As well they promote an ethos oriented to implementation and accountability.

There are, however, certain problems in the NGO-civil society relationship. In particular, some rivalry for international resources has developed between institutions of government and NGOs. The role of NGOs as development brokers has encouraged competition amongst their clients, which sometimes narrows the boundary between their non-political and political engagement. Further, their dependence on external funding sources has subjected them to reporting controls and other requirements, thereby making them more bureaucratized. There are, of course, several types of NGOs (Duncan: 2). Their contested role notwithstanding, they appear to play a potentially significant role as builders of civil society in the Caribbean. We conclude then, that civil society and NGOs are essential building blocks of viable, vigorous local government systems in virtually any environment. Overall, they are an important part of the social foundation necessary for better governance.


In general, governance represents a democratic participatory approach, designed to achieve development objectives. Its essential objective is the distribution of decision-making power to benefit the majority. It is a process through which a society steers itself, guided by certain abstract rules and regulative principles. Of course, governance thrives where there is a wide range of pluralistic structures, committed to solving social problems collectively. In practice, this process emphasizes systems of "co-management", involving the sharing of such tasks and responsibilities between social forces and political actors. This system of collective decision-making would provide opportunities for the re-design of policies and institutions around some agreed definition of the public interest. To be effective, this process ideally requires "social capital" and trust, fairness in governmental transactions, and the satisfaction of basic needs. A strong tradition has not developed around these tenets in the Caribbean (Jones: 7; Duncan: 2 Ryan 13).

Rather, the reality is that Caribbean local government systems suffer some major crises of governance in terms defined by the World Bank (16 : p.9). The challenge is how to confront these crises. At least four strategies are available:

1. First there is the need to concentrate on public policies that promote economic growth, social equity and administrative reform.

2. Secondly, crises of governance are best overcome with strong local and national political leadership. In particular, leadership that is pragmatic and flexible, sensitive to changing conditions and able to change priorities and mobilize resources for policy implementation.

3. Thirdly, successful governance requires, indeed demands, heavy investment in human development. The primary idea is to build new skills and self-confidence as well as strengthen social capital.

4. The fourth pre-condition relates to the building of permanent governance institutions as one method of institutionalizing innovations. Given the issues raised throughout this paper, all these strategies are underdeveloped in the Caribbean. The strong support of a public philosophy, focused on a new moral infrastructure of society, is needed to re-orient existing patterns. In particular, this philosophy must be designed to sustain a sharper sense of civic responsibility, social restraint and moral obligation implicit in modem concepts of governance and citizenship. Local government institutions, like academic and civic associations, can play an instrumental role in creating this moral fabric. (Duncan: 2; Ryan: 13; Jones: 7; Gonzales: 4).

Two underlying assumptions have guided the discourse so far: One is that the socio-historical factors that have conditioned and articulated local-level administration in the Anglophone Caribbean have left a framework in which concepts of local government take primacy over those of local governance. The second assumption contends that any meaningful transition to the governance orientation requires certain minimum social foundations or building blocks. One is democratization, anchored in concepts and practices of political and administrative accountability. Another is decentralization, in terms broader than the mere movement of power from central to local government. The third is embodied in frameworks of civil society and governance as core organizing principles. Considerable administrative capacity is required for the cohesion of these building blocks. It has never been fully developed in the Caribbean (Mills: 9).


Perhaps the most persistent problem facing the Caribbean local government system is under-capacity to manage its complex processes. Yet, socio-technical capacity is always needed to cement the building blocks that make up vibrant local government. The bridging of this 'capacity gap' in the region must start with conceptual clarity, aided by purposeful administrative guidance.

Development practitioners normally regard capacity development as a process by which individuals, groups and institutions increase their ability to understand and deal with their development needs overtime, It is also a process of personal, organizational and social change that depends on local energy, commitment and ownership. Such socio-technical capacity is more securely built in the crucible of a participatory framework. (CIDA: 1).

Capacity building must also be seen as an 'action-based', learning process in which stakeholders are active in guiding and shaping their own development, including building appropriate commitments. These processes require certain institutional and human resource pre-conditions. One broad aim of the process is to cultivate ability for problem identification, policy preparation and the strengthening of management skills to implement policies. The willingness to learn or internalize new innovative ideas, practices and alternative organizational forms is another expected output of this process. In addition, the success of the process must be judged by the extent to which it engenders commitment to changing the overall image of the existing local government systems. Included in such commitment, must be the willingness to depart from some of the conventional incremental approaches to solving local government problems. We are still in search of this ideal in the region.

However, Caribbean local government practitioners are positioned to refine and extend reliance on two specific capacity building strategies, already on their agenda, The one concerns networking or institutional partnerships at the regional level. A number of regional local government seminars symbolize this effort. This approach has involved the sharing of experiences as well as bridging gaps in communication and information flows. It has also assisted in reconciling political differences. In addition, the emerging regional local government network has raised the question of a joint approach to negotiating international financial and technical support for community development The other possibility concerns the expansion of experiments with community economic development projects. Both approaches require additional action, research and a reliable statistical base, to guide appropriate social action.

CIDA (1) has summarized certain crucial "guiding principles" which should guide action. These include:

• systemic approach to problem solving;

• consideration of social, political, cultural and economic context and institutional arrangements;

Drawing on Caribbean field experience, Girvan (5), has identified five core principles that conduce to "community power" or capacity building at the local level. These core principles stress:

1. Economic value of community participation: Community participation can serve as a check to waste, inefficiency and downright corruption, tap local human resources, and stimulate greater effort and voluntary labour in project implementation. This can result in substantial savings, yielding more and better physical facilities for available financial resources.

2. Solidarity: When practised in a strictly non-partisan manner, community participation can break down tribal political divisions and promote community solidarity and cohesiveness, thereby facilitating collective self-help and problem-solving at the community level.

3. Rootedness: Community participation is not to be confused with token involvement by hastily formed local structures which are not genuinely rooted in community life.

4. Transparency: Confidence by the community in the participatory mechanism requires that information about project formulation and implementation processes are freely available to all members of the community.

5. Control. Community participation is made effective through the exercise of genuine control over resources at the local level, represented by the authority over the selection of those who would be employed on projects, and who would have actual control over resources, subject to technical monitoring and accountability.

Girvan had cautioned the need for the institutionalization of local government organizations, with their own independent revenue base as a means of bypassing dependence on high profile leadership and officialdom.



Local government practitioners ought to be interested in what makes institutions work. The fashionable response nowadays is to rely on market or market-surrogate mechanisms in local and national administration. Yet, market mechanisms are not necessarily the best instruments for managing growing local government portfolios in socio-economic activities. Market mechanisms do not necessarily resolve central problems of politicization, accountability, participation and capacity building. If anything, Caribbean local government systems may require a mix of management approaches. The key issues in utilizing social capacity at the local level then, turn on context and 'strategy mix'.

From the Girvan-CIDA and other (e.g. Rondinelli: 12a) 'models' referenced in this paper, at least five 'management' strategies seem relevant to the changing regional context.

1. Local organizational capacity should be built from the ground up. Among other things, the Caribbean local government legacy of delayed autonomy, politicization, patron-client politics and symbolic democratization are all expressions of manipulation "from above". These approaches have not generated client-centred or sustainable development. Only organizational arrangements and practices of opposite tendencies will be able to build new networks that are defensive and respectful of the interest of the majority who are poor.

2. Keep the management and planning systems and procedures simple. Genuine management competencies are in short supply in the private and public sectors throughout the Caribbean region. These deficits are largest in the rural sector. Field experience here and elsewhere suggests that rural people tend to be somewhat intimidated by complex bureaucracies and their so-called 'sophisticated' procedures. To be effective, rural/local administration requires simplifying and short-circuiting long bureaucratic chains. It must draw on the common sense of the people as a reliable store of knowledge. Capacity-enhancing planning models must also start with what is known. They must seek to ensure that the agenda is manageable and involve stakeholders.

3. Rely on appropriate incentive systems. Especially in a reform environment, newness, the sense of uncertainty and the risk of failure create real problems. They normally inhibit innovation. Systems of incentives are therefore necessary to encourage and reward managers and stakeholders willing to confront these problems. Such incentives may range from opportunities for adequate training, availability of strong field support, affording managers the freedom to manage, and use of performance-based reward systems.

4. Build a culture of self-correction. In an environment of newness, uncertainty and complexity, a measure of confusion, some errors and mistakes are to be expected at the local level. There is a natural tendency in such circumstances to cover up or to deny the existence of such problems. This is why systems for error-detection and self-correction must be institutionalized. In other words, the idea is to encourage correction rather than punishment. The strategy is to recognize behaviour oriented to creativity, flexibility and experimentation. It should also regard uncorrected errors as a main expression of poor management.

5. Concert the action strategies. Capacity building or problem solving strategies work best when they are carefully integrated and coordinated. They need the cement of trust that encourages working together for common purposes. Needed also are frameworks of laws, rules and regulations that clearly define the division of labour, responsibilities and accountabilities among stakeholders. In particular, the reform programme at central and local levels should be coordinated, to mitigate fears that the one is being developed at the expense of the other. Experience teaches that the effective concerting of capacities and strategies requires reliable statistics. These are also necessary too for effective planning, project development and implementation.


Historically, the roots of the region's local government problem have been conceptual and practical. For the most part, the conceptual building blocks or social foundations needed for viable local government practice have been interpreted at a general level. Such interpretations did not readily accommodate contextual conditions and circumstances. At the practical level, the core problem has been defined as dependence on the centre. Its by-products are then viewed as lack of adequate revenue sources; human resource weaknesses; and policy inadequacies mainly associated with centralized styles of management. Accordingly, conventional wisdom has conceptualized appropriate institutional reforms in structural terms. This approach has led, as we have seen, to lop-sided reform results (e.g., changes in structure without corresponding behavioral changes).


Four other conclusions may be explicitly stated.

• First, mainly 'crises', 'administrative guidance' and 'bureaucratic paternalism' have stimulated change processes within regional local government systems. These represent top-down strategies that have not encouraged sustainability. Their essential by-product has been institutional 'capture' by vested interests. The strengthening of civil society is suggested as a more reliable vehicle for promoting change and sustainability. However, movement in that direction requires the opportunity and capability to pursue free public discourse and develop critical opinion. It may also require constitutionally guaranteed autonomy.

• Secondly, the regional systems have been accommodating market-oriented mechanisms. Yet, there is little evidence to suggest that the expanded role and power of the private sector and corporate bureaucracy has mitigated or replaced the usual biases toward local elites and indifference to the poor in local communities. That certainly has not happened in Jamaica (Jones/Mills: 8).

• Thirdly, although the Commonwealth Caribbean region has a relatively strong democratic tradition, some of its democratic institutions and impulses now appear threatened (Ryan: 13). Weaknesses in local government and related deficits in civil society and governance generally constitute serious 'threats'. Other threats are spread unevenly across the region and include slow progress toward reforming inherited centrist biases in the constitutional order; the rise of a drug culture; the politicization of violence; the deterioration of the economic situation, among other things. In an increasingly inter-dependent world, these 'threats' require for their effective management and removal a measure of international support. The regional local government establishment should therefore try to negotiate such support and assistance as a joint endeavour. Projectized development initiatives are convenient ways of simultaneously attracting external agency support as well as providing opportunities for capacity building and sustainability.

Finally, a radically different culture of thinking is needed in order to change the character of the conceptual and practical issues raised. Conventional strategies and modes of thinking have not effectively solved some important problems on the local government agenda. Meaningful solutions may be found in alternative, but "dangerous" forms of thinking: thinking in opposites; thinking upside-down; putting the last first. These forms of thinking are dangerous because they challenge received orthodoxy. Yet, they are also creative forms of thinking because they contemplate the unlikely. They reverse conventional priorities. Thus, for example, this new culture of thinking questions why local government officials are not equally regarded or paid as central government officials. It questions why members of national Parliaments are usually better qualified than their local counterparts. It also wonders why the cultural wisdom of the people is less preferred to the imported policy doctrines of the international policy establishment. It asks why thinking about development issues is mainly short term rather than long term. This form of thinking carries powerful policy and management implications, particularly for governance at the local level. Thinking in this mode is itself a capacity building strategy, available to the entire community.



1. Canadian International Development "Supporting Local Government Reform" A Project

Agency (CIDA) Proposal, ACD/CIDA, 1997


2. Duncan, Neville "Community Governance and Participation" in

Governance Democracy and Civil Society in the

Caribbean Community", IDB, Conference

Proceedings, Barbados, September 1997


3. Fukuyama, Francis Trust: The Social Virtues and the

Creation of Property, The Free Press, 1995


4. Gonzales, P. Anthony & "The Role of International Cooperation in

Clarke, Alisa Promoting Governance and Development in the

Caribbean", IDB op cit.


5. Girvan, Norman "Community Power" in Jamaica Observer, February

26 & 27, 1995


6. Haque, M. Shamoal "Local Government in Developing Nations: Re

examining the Question of Accountability" in

Regional Development Dialogue. Vol. 18, No. 2,

Autumn 1997


7. Jones, Edwin "Governance, Ethics and Transparency: The

International Agencies and Caribbean Realities",

IDB op cit.


8. Jones, Edwin/ Mills, G. E. "The Institutional Framework of Government" in

Jamaica in independence, Rex Nettleford, ed.



9. Mills, G.E. "The Future and Viability of Local Government in

Jamaica", Department of Government 1985


10. Polidano, Charles and "No Magic Wands: Accountability and Governance

Hulme, David in Developing Countries" in Regional Development

Dialogue, Vol. 18, No.2, Autumn 1997

11. Robotham, Donald Vision & Voluntarism: Revising Voluntarism in

Jamaica , The Grace Kennedy Foundation 1998

12. Rondinelli, D. "Decentralizing public services in Developing

Countries: Issues and Opportunities" in Journal of

Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1989

pp. 77-78


12a. Rondinelli, D. Development Projects as Policy experiments

Methven, USA 1989


13. Ryan, Selwyn "Democracy and Governance in the Anglophone

Caribbean: Threats to Sustainability", IDB op cit.


14. Singh, Paul Local Democracy in the Commonwealth Caribbean.,

Longman Caribbean Ltd. 1972

15. UNDP Local Governance : Report of the United Nations

Global Forum on Innovative Policies and Practices

in Local Governance, Sweden, September 1996


16.World Bank Governance and Development, 1992








By Dr. Derrick McKoy and

Dr. Yvonne Stone,

Lecturers in Law, Faculty of Law,

University of the West Indies, Mona Campus

Kingston, Jamaica


We think that local government should be about localised public administration. We concede at once that there is more to the local government process than just the capacity to effectively administer and deliver public services. Nevertheless, few local government institutions will survive long if they do not make some pretence of delivery of some form of public service. Once we concede that there is a place for localised public services and public service administration, then we are faced with the dilemma of oversight of these structures. It is to this end that we offer the services of the Ombudsman. We believe that the Ombudsman has a unique role to play in the scheme of local government public services. An institution like the Ombudsman may allay some of our fears and distrust about the capacity of our local government institutions to play a useful role in delivery of public services at the local level.

Local Government as a Medium for Political Expression

There has always been ambivalence to local government in Jamaica. At least, we have been uncertain about it since we disestablished the Church and removed the vestry system from the Parish Councils after the Morant Bay Rebellion. From one perspective, dis-establishment represented a modernisation of the process of local government. From another perspective, it was the beginning of Central Government's distrust of local public administration. This uncertainty and distrust has been a recurring theme in the relationship of the Parish Councils and Central Government over the years.

In colonial times, with limited franchise and limited opportunity to participate in the political process, local government systems offered an opportunity for political expression that may have been more valuable than any successes local government may have had in delivering public services to the people. In a real sense, local government in for political representation. International political leaders, like Marcus Garvey in Jamaica, or internationally renowned public servants like Chief Justice Wooding of Trinidad and Tobago, found early exposure for their political expression in local government politics.

Even in modern times, local government provides outlet for broader expressions than are likely to be accommodated in national politics. It allows for the fringe and the extreme. It is not necessary to fear such approaches. Indeed, adequate accommodation of unique views at the local level may direct such approaches into constructive rather than destructive areas.

Part of the challenge of the process of governance is the need to involve broad participation in the process. There is the need to give the participants a sense of ownership of the exercise. It cannot be desirable that dissatisfaction with the process of governance can only find expression in public demonstrations, including commandeering roads and stopping traffic.

Local government politics can provide early training for national government. Aspirants to the political process might find local government good early training for future national endeavours. The process of local government politics can also serve as an early warning signal, filtering-out the unable, the inept or the uncommitted from the national political process. Not all of us will have the stamina for politics.

Most important, however, local government can foster a sense of empowerment among communities, if their members can be involved in the process of local politics and localised public administration. The greatest advantage to be derived from localised politics and localised public administration is that it reduces the alienation that people sometimes feel when they confront the state.

Although we have made the argument promoting local government, both at the level of politics and at the level of public administration, we cannot say that greater local government will mean less public corruption or fewer instances of the abuse of public power. Any expression of power is susceptible to abuse, and any system of public administration can be corrupted. This is as true for local government as it is for national government. Indeed, it may be fair to say that it is no more true of local government structures than that of central government ones. It is to avoid the abuse of political power and maladministration that we turn our attention to institutions of social and political audits. If it is our argument that local government has political advantages far above the public administration advantages, then we must ensure that there are support structures that will make local government work well.

We must therefore turn our minds to institutions that will provide political or social audits. Here the Ombudsman can and does play a vital role. As an extra-judicial agent, the office of Ombudsman can challenge the excesses of government, holding political behaviour, including political behaviour at the local level, to high standards.The Ombudsman can be an agency for the promotion of internationally acceptable standards of human rights and the rule of law. Thus the office of the Ombudsman can be an agency to strengthen local government institutions in the Commonwealth Caribbean, as it is used to strengthen public administration throughout the Commonwealth, and increasingly, in Latin America.


Local Government as an Institution for Public Administration

It has been said that the territories of the Commonwealth Caribbean (that is, the English speaking Caribbean) are among the most governed in the world. The cynical might say further that it is therefore a good thing that our several attempts of federal governments have failed, otherwise we would be labouring under those structures as well. Even the St. Kitts/Nevis arrangement, which embodies a federal-type of local administration for Nevis, appears to contain the seeds of its own destruction. With this disparagement of excessive government, it is not surprising that local government has been literally disappearing from the region. In Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago we have kept the local government structures. Indeed, Guyana has integrated the structures into the national government.

But even in these territories, and when viewed from the perspective of pure public administration, local government has been under threat. In Belize and Jamaica in particular, the capacity of local government to efficiently manage their own affairs has been questioned. Public administrators argue that there are some economies of scale or some economies of scope that cannot be realised in localised public administration, particularly in small territories. And, or course, there is the perennial suggestion that local public administration is inherently prone, or more prone, to corruption.

These concerns are by no means unique to the Commonwealth Caribbean region. The dominant view of public administration is that larger size results in greater economies of scale, and there is the push to create larger associations of local governments.1

Seen purely from the perspective of efficient public administration, local government has an uncertain future. The need for greater public involvement in governance, and hence the need for increased localised local administration, is roundly challenged by the experience that local administrative structures in the Commonwealth Caribbean, particularly in recent years, have not worked well.

Modern administrative solutions have adopted territorial arrangements inconsistent with established local government political districts. The administration of solid waste in Jamaica may adequately demonstrate the modem position. Indeed, the rationale behind the existing scheme for local government districting based on parishes, is long lost (assuming there ever was one). The parish political districts are no longer consistent with social and economic developments and are not contiguous with the natural and economic resources that may fall for local management. Neither have we developed in the Commonwealth Caribbean region structures or systems whereby several local authorities may share local or regional public administration. Indeed, the new dispensation is to establish executive agencies: public administration institutions targeted with specific responsibilities and given defined resources. The ultimate test is their effectiveness and cost effectiveness. Here, accountability is usually restricted to one member of the executive. Such agencies are justified, not by their broad political ownership, but by the capacity to "get the job done."

There are some issues of public administration that can be neatly localised. Urbanisation and the development of townships and cities provide neat social units around which both local governance and local administration can be organised. If some services are best delivered where the delivery agent is large and can take advantages of economies of scale and scope, then there must be some services that can be best delivered from small or localised structures.

Thus we can see local government from one of two contradictory perspectives: either the inherent inefficiency or corruptibility of local public administration, on the one hand, or the inherent advantage to deliver parochial services, on the other. From either point of view, we need devices to make local public administration work. As in the area of local governance, so in the area of local administration there is need for audit agencies to augment the local administrators.


The Concept of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman is an agency of effective public administration. The concept began in Scandinavia, as an agency for oversight of the bureaucratic machinery. The Swedish Justieombudsman of 1809 was a creature of Parliament and provided the precedent for New Zealand, when it adopted the concept in 1962, Since then other countries in the Commonwealth and around the world have introduced into their systems the office of the Ombudsman or Ombudsman-like agencies. These include the provinces of Canada, Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritius, the UK, and Pakistan. The institution is becoming increasingly popular in Central and South America as well. In addition to Puerto Rico, Ombudsmen and Ombudsman-like institutions exist in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

In addition to this, seven territories in the Commonwealth Caribbean now have legislative or constitutional provisions for the Ombudsman or Parliamentary Commissioner. In the Commonwealth Caribbean, we have adopted the New Zealand model of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. In our experience, the Parliamentary Ombudsman or Parliamentary Commissioner is a commission of Parliament charged with the responsibility of investigating the executive and reporting the findings to Parliament.

Nevertheless, there is sufficient variety in the approaches taken by the Commonwealth Caribbean countries to warrant a comparative study.

The classic Ombudsman can be described as "a public sector office usually established by the legislature to monitor the administrative activities of the executive branch of government"2. The institution is designed to improve legality, fairness, accountability and efficiency of government. The institution also functions as a human rights promotions institution. The Ombudsman's powers are predominantly the power of investigation and the power of publicity.

A most significant feature of the Ombudsman institution, particularly in Jamaica, is that it is an extra-judicial method of complaint handling. Our culture is openly intercessionary. We have little faith in our individual capacity or authority to challenge established authority. Very often we seek out others to intercede for us. This is perhaps more true in our dealings with the bureaucracies of government than it is with rest of our lives. We can therefore see why the institution of the Ombudsman lends itself to local government administration. The office can provide an audit of political power, it can examine maladministration at the local or parochial level, and it can give our people a familiar institutionalised system of intervention on their behalf.

Ombudsman Institutions in Jamaica

Jamaica is fortunate in having two Ombudsman institutions and several Ombudsmen: We have had an Ombudsman for the centralised public administration, one for public utilities, and another for the political process. In addition, we have a Contractor-General, which is an Ombudsman for government contracts and licences. The Contractor-General monitors and investigates matters concerning the award of government contracts, and his fundamental objective is to ensure efficiency, integrity and impartiality in the award of government contracts, licences and permits. Although the Office of Ombudsman and the Office of Contractor-General in Jamaica are based on different legislation, the language of both statutes are so similar that we can conveniently discuss them together.


The Contractor-General and the Ombudsman are both commissions of Parliament, consisting of persons appointed by the Governor General. The Governor General appoints the Ombudsman on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, after the latter has consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, and he appoints the Contractor-General after he consults the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. This method of appointment by the Governor General acting in his own discretion is unique in Jamaican law and, indeed, is unusual in the Commonwealth Caribbean, except for Trinidad and Tobago.


The incumbents to the respective offices of Contractor-General and Ombudsman hold office for a period of seven years and may be re-appointed for five years only in the case of the Ombudsman and farther periods not exceeding five years at a time for the Contractor General. Neither can be a member of Parliament, a bankrupt, an ex-convict of an offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, and the Contractor-General is further disqualified for failure to disclose interest in any contract with the government. Both the Ombudsman and the Contractor-General enjoy security of tenure from arbitrary dismissal. Both are removable from office only for inability to discharge the functions of office or for misbehaviour or, in the case of the Contractor-General, for trading with the Government without the prior approval of both houses of Parliament. Dismissal is only possible after resolutions in both Houses of Parliament that the question of removal of the office holder be investigated. And then, only after the Governor General has been advised by a Tribunal of not fewer than three persons, who hold, or have held, the office of a judge in a court of unlimited jurisdiction (or a court of appeal from such a court) that the office holder ought to be removed for inability or misbehaviour. In the case of the Ombudsman, the Governor General appoints the tribunal on the advice of the Prime Minister after the latter has consulted the Leader of the Opposition, whereas in the case of the Contractor-General, the Governor-General appoints the tribunal without acting on anyone's advice.


An Ombudsman may appoint and employ staff as may be considered necessary to assist him in the proper performance of his functions under this Act, at such remuneration and on such terms and conditions as may be approved by a Commission of Parliament The Contractor-General's position is distinguishable only by the substitution in the statute of the words "as he [the Contractor-General] considers necessary" for the words "as may be considered necessary." This makes it clear that the Ombudsman and the Contractor-General will appoint such employees as it is considered necessary (or as they consider necessary) on the terms and conditions of service that had been decided by the Commissions of Parliament established under Section 10 (2) of the Ombudsman Act and Section 13 (2) of the Contractor-General Act.


The functions and responsibilities of the Contractor-General and the Ombudsman in Jamaica are very close to each other. The Ombudsman is charged with investigating injustices resulting from the exercise of the administrative functions of a government authority or officer, informing principal officers of the authority of the results of his investigations and, where someone has suffered an injustice as a consequence of that breach, making recommendations for action to be taken by the authority within a specified time.

The Contractor-General has similar functions. The Contractor-General is charged with the responsibility to monitor the award and implementation of government contracts with a view to ensuring that such contracts are awarded impartially and on merit, that the circumstances in which such contracts were awarded or terminated do not involve irregularity, and that the implementation of the contracts conforms to their terms.


The Contractor-General is also charged with the responsibility to monitor the grant, issue, suspension, or revocation of any prescribed licence to ensure that the grant, issue, suspension, or revocation do not involve impropriety and irregularity and, where appropriate, to examine whether such licence is used in accordance with its terms and conditions. The Contractor-General may investigate the registration of contractors, the tender procedures relating to contracts awarded by public bodies, the award of government contracts, the implementation of the terms of any government contract, and the circumstances of the grant, issue, use, suspension or revocation of any prescribed licences. Finally, after an investigation, the Contractor-General has a duty to inform the principal officer of the public body concerned and the Minister having responsibility for it, and to make such recommendations as he considers necessary.


Apart from their respective areas of concern, and that the Ombudsman's interest is usually provoked by a written complaint, the most striking difference between the functions of the two is the time when they may take an interest in the subject of an investigation. An Ombudsman in Jamaica is properly interested in a subject when it is alleged, or he is of the opinion, that an injustice has already taken place. On the other hand, the Contractor-General's duty to monitor may require him to be interested in a subject from the outset, even though no allegation of irregularity or impropriety has taken place. Indeed, the duty to monitor is to ensure that irregularity or impropriety does not take place.


It may be argued, however, that by necessary implication, an Ombudsman also has a right to be properly seized of a matter before an injustice has taken place. Section 20 of the Ombudsman Act provides that an Ombudsman has, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or to protect the rights or freedoms of any person, the right to enter any premises occupied by an authority to inspect documents.


The Ombudsman may investigate any Ministry, department or agency of Government, the police, statutory body or authority and limited liability companies in which the Government holds not less than fifty-one per centum of the ordinary shares, and which both Houses of Parliament have declared by resolution to be an "authority" under the Ombudsman Act. The Contractor-General cannot without the approval of Cabinet investigate a contract or licence for the supply of equipment to the security forces (which includes the police), but he can investigate other contracts such as those for building or works. The Contractor-General may also investigate or monitor any Ministry, department or agency of Government, statutory body or authority and limited liability company "in which the Government or an agency of Government, whether by the holding of shares or other financial input, is in a position to influence the policy of the company."


Although the range of investigable limited liability companies under the Contractor-General Act is wider than under the Ombudsman Act, this is not necessarily to be preferred. Both Acts recognise the growing trend for Government to use private companies for public purposes, but the wider definition of the Contractor-General Act exposes private companies (in which government owns sufficient shares to be in a position to influence) to an unprecedented degree of public scrutiny.



The Ombudsman investigates injustices resulting from administrative action. The Contractor-General investigates the registration of contractors, tender procedures for the award of government contracts, and the actual award of government contracts, the implementation of the terms of government contracts, the circumstances of the grant, issue, use, suspension or revocation of any prescribed licences, and the practice or procedure in relation to the grant, issue, suspension or revocation of prescribed licences: These are several distinct functions, and ought to present no difficulty in implementation but for determining the meaning of "government contract" and "prescribed licence."


,'Government contract" and "prescribed licence" are both defined by the Contractor-General Act, and while "prescribed licence" has not yet received judicial interpretation, "government contract" has. The dispute between the Contractor-General and the TOJ was whether a purchase of land by the TOJ was government contract and thus investigable by the Contractor-General. The TOYs contention was that a contract for the sale of land is not a "government contract" as defined by the Act and that Parliament never intended the Act to apply to contracts for the sale of land. The Contractor-General is empowered under Section 15 (1) (c) and (d) of the Act to investigate the award and implementation of the terms of any "government contract" which is defined as follows:


"Government contracts " includes any licence, permit or other concession or authority issued by a public body or agreement entered into by a public body for the carrying out of building or other works or for the supply of services.




In deciding whether to pursue an investigation the Contractor-General, like the Ombudsman, acts on his own initiative or as a result of representations made to him, but only if, in his opinion, such an investigation is warranted. The Contractor-General and the Ombudsman are not required to adopt any particular procedure while pursuing an investigation.


In the absence of regulations, the Contractor-General or Ombudsman may adopt whatever procedure they consider appropriate to the circumstance of a particular case and they may obtain information from such persons and in such manner as they think fit. Their proceedings cannot be rendered void for want of form. There is no obligation on the Contractor-General to hold a hearing while conducting an investigation, nor is there a right to an individual to comment on any allegation made, or even to be heard during an investigation or hearing. In this regard, the Contractor-General's powers represent a significant advance on that of the Ombudsman.


Although, as a general rule, no one is entitled as of right to comment on any allegations or to be heard by an Ombudsman, there are two statutory exceptions: First, where an Ombudsman proposes to conduct an investigation he shall afford the principal officer of the authority concerned and the officer exercising the administrative authority resulting in the alleged injustice to comment in writing on the allegations; second, if it appears to an Ombudsman during an investigation that there are sufficient grounds for making a report or recommendation that may adversely affect any person, he shall give that person an opportunity to be heard and the right to be represented at the hearing by an attorney or other person.


The Contractor-General also has a duty to report: thus, besides the obligatory annual report relating generally to the execution of his functions, Parliament may at any time require the Contractor-General to submit a report to it concerning any matter being investigated by him. So too, where the Contractor-General's investigation discloses evidence of a breach of duty, misconduct or a criminal offence by an officer or member of a public body, he is required to make a special report to Parliament. The Contractor-General has the right on his own initiative to report to Parliament at any time on any particular matter or matters investigated, or being investigated, by him which, in his opinion, requires the special attention of Parliament, and has the additional right to publish in such manner as he thinks fit, the reports he has made to Parliament after they have been tabled in the Houses of Parliament.



The Contractor-General and the Ombudsman have extensive power to gather evidence. In an investigation no one may refuse to answer any question or withhold information on the ground that answer or disclosure would be harmful to the public interest, but no one can be compelled to give any evidence or produce any document or thing which he could not be compelled to give or produce in a court of law. This prohibition is not as far-reaching as it may at first seem. For practical purposes in such an investigation, other than the special privilege a client enjoys over communications to his attorney, only diplomats and, to a limited extent, bankers are excluded by this rule.


The Ombudsman and the Contractor-General may require anyone, who in their opinion is able to give assistance in relation to a matter under investigation, to furnish such information and produce such document or thing in that person's possession or under his control. They may summon and examine on oath anyone who has made representation to them or any other person who is able to furnish information relating to the investigation. Such an examination during an investigation is deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of the Perjury Act and testimony given under oath which is contradicted by other sworn testimony by the same individual may be used to ground a charge of perjury against that individual.


The Ombudsman and the Contractor-General may take testimony on oath, but they are not obliged to do so and may take unsworn testimony. They are not obliged to apply the technical rules of evidence and may rely on anything which is materially probative, including hearsay.


With respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses and production of documents the Contractor-General and the Ombudsman have the powers of a judge of the Supreme Court. This raises at once the question of what those powers entail and whether such a general conferral of power is necessary, for both Acts also explicitly create several summary offences for giving wrong or misleading evidence or obstruction, which are punishable on conviction before a Resident Magistrate.



There are only small restrictions on both the Ombudsman's and the Contractor-General's right to receive information. Where the Secretary of the Cabinet certifies that the giving of any information, the answering of any question or production of any document would prejudice the security or defence of Jamaica, neither the Ombudsman nor the Contractor-General can further require that it be supplied or produced. Similarly, the Contractor-General has no right to investigate a government contract for the supply of equipment to the security forces or a prescribed licence for purposes of defence or the supply of such equipment and therefore no corresponding right to information in that regard.

It is understandable then that, as a corollary to the extensive rights granted to these commissions to receive information; the Acts also impose on each commission a corresponding duty to maintain the confidentiality of the information received. Both the Ombudsman and the Contractor-General must regard as secret and confidential all documents, information and things disclosed to them in the execution of their respective duties and may only disclose such information where they regard it necessary in the discharge of their respective functions or for purposes of making complaints for offences created by the Act or under the Perjury Act. Obviously, in carrying out their duties as commissions of Parliament to advise and report on their investigations they will have to disclose confidential information also. Other types of disclosure are unlawful and punishable by fine or imprisonment.


In addition, the Cabinet may also restrain the publication of certain information. The Ombudsman and the Contractor-General and their staff shall not communicate any information or document if the Secretary to the Cabinet, acting at the direction of the Cabinet, gives notice that the information or the document specified in the notice involve the disclosure of Cabinet secrets likely to be harmful to the public interest, prejudicial to Jamaica's foreign relations or prejudice the detection of a crime. Similarly, a court may order the Contractor-General not to publish a report or part of it if such publication is likely to prejudice the proceedings pending before the court and an Ombudsman cannot disclose any communication between a minister of religion and anyone consulting him in that capacity or medical practitioner and his patient in their professional relationship. Finally, neither the Ombudsman nor the Contractor-General can publish a report until it is laid on the table of the Houses of Parliament.


The Development of Administrative Law and Local Government Institutions

Local government does not create itself It is a creature of some higher authority and its rules are subordinate rules. In Jamaica local government institutions such as the Parish Councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation were created (and are regulated) by one of two statutes: One for Kingston and Saint Andrew, and one for all the other Parish Councils. The rules of these statutes and the principles of administrative law apply to these institutions. As local government and local government administrators are subject to the courts and the rules of administrative law, one may well ask the question "Of what use is the Ombudsman in local government?"


English law, which is the source of our administrative law rules in Jamaica, did not have an early appreciation of the elaborate specialist rules of public administration the way we have had. Nor did it have the elaborate scheme of executive agencies like the Americans. Nevertheless, in recent years English courts have contributed significantly to the development of administrative law. We now have a well developed concept of the rules of natural justice such as a right to a fair hearing in a dispute, a right to notice of the hearing of a complaint against one, and a right not to be judged by someone who has an interest in the matter at hand. The general principles of natural justice involve the right not only to a hearing (which implies further, the right to adequate notice of that hearing) but also to one that is fair. It has even been asserted (although the authorities do not universally support this) that there is a right to legal representation on such a hearing3. We also have well developed rules in administrative law on a reasonable expectation, which prevents caprice on the part of part of administrators. The same is true of the administrative law on the exercise of discretion by an administrator.


There is perhaps no other field in which the law has evolved so rapidly and covered so much ground. The law, which guarantees fairness in administrative conduct, is far better understood today and applied with far greater rigour than it had ever been.

The Ombudsman vs. Administrative Law

Notwithstanding the developments in the area of administrative law, there is still need for the agency of the Ombudsman. First, there is little faith in the courts as a means of obtaining administrative justice. Local administrative law, at least from the procedural point of view have not moved with the speed that it has in England. The capacity to provoke the courts in public law matters in Jamaica is still dependent on the old prerogative writs which is time consuming and cumbersome.


Moreover, we do not like to think that the world outlook of an individual judge can influence his decision in a matter. Unfortunately, law is not so well developed and not so precise that its application is free of the judge's view of the world. Very often we can explain a trend or development in the law in no other terms than that it reflects public policy. This is certainly true of private law. There was a period in the 1960s when English Courts were quite generous in extending the agency principle to cover delinquent drivers of motor vehicles. This was largely because the owners, not the drivers, were usually insured and thus the cost of the injury could be spread over the insured community rather than on the driver alone, who was a possible man of straw. In the broadest sense, public policy demanded that someone severely injured should be compensated even if the cost of that compensation had to be passed on to the broader community (that is the insured) and not confined to the person most intimately connected to the injury who would be in no position to adequately pay for the wrong. At one time, this public policy consideration was reflected in quality of judgements courts handed down on motor vehicle accidents. There is no principle of common law that required this4. And there is no way we could have explained this trend except to say that judges were responding to a certain public policy imperative. Judges would not, of course, admit this and this policy is no longer evident in England or the jurisdictions of the Commonwealth Caribbean.


We have given you one example of this in the private law over thirty years ago. To be sure, there are other examples of which the developers responsibilities for defective housing and women's property rights are but two. A significant distinction between the first example and the latter two is that the first was a temporary aberration where as the latter two has become firmly entrenched as a part of our law.


If this is true of private law, we should expect it to be no less true of the public law. One of the vexed problems provoking lawyers and public administrators is the determination of sufficient interest to ground an application to the court. Our system of judicial administration does not encourage busy bodies. The courts will not entertain an application from someone unless that person is sufficiently interested in or affected by the matter. We speak of this as having locus standi, which is having sufficient interest to guarantee a right to be heard. What amounts to interest, however, is not easily determined. Or put another way: The determination of interest is not without controversy.


Several years ago when the Minister of Finance exercised a power under the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation Act to dissolve the Council, the Supreme Court refused to hear an applicant on the basis that he, a member of the Council, had no locus standi5. To many that decision seems incomprehensible (although it does not bother the public lawyers) because we cannot comprehend who would have a greater interest. The Minister can only dissolve the Council if in his judgement the Council is incompetent. To our mind a judgement should always be reviewable because it must be based on some substratum of fact. It cannot be capricious. And who would be more significantly affected by that judgement than those persons who are elected to carry out the affairs of the Council?


One may contrast this with experiences from other jurisdictions. In Antigua and Barbuda, for example, when the government pursued a tourism development scheme involving the compulsory acquisition and resale of land and the grant of tax concessions, the Leader of the Opposition, was held to have sufficient interest to apply for judicial review. In England, a television licensee was held to have sufficient interest to challenge

a broadcast on the works of Andy Warhol, while in Ontario a taxpayer and elector was held to have sufficient interest to challenge a bill providing for bilingual services. In none of these cases was the applicant successful. Nevertheless, 6 the courts held that each one had sufficient interest in the matter to grant them a hearing.6 These cases demonstrate the uncertainty over the very right to apply to the court for a hearing and may justify the

distrust of the courts that an applicant may have.


The great advantage of the Ombudsman institution is that it is extra-judicial. Complex procedure, the passage of time, or the absence of financial resources need not impede someone who complains to the Ombudsman. A poor or disenfranchised person, given the choice between going to law and going to the Ombudsman, may consider choosing the latter.


Retooling Local Institutions

One of the greatest challenges to public administration must be bureaucracies that do not work. Failure to perform follows not only because the agency might have been badly conceived in the first place but also because it might have been poorly staffed and badly financed or maintained. Sometimes agencies conceived and funded to deal with specific responsibilities are made dysfunctional by the increase in responsibilities imposed on it. Inflation can make cost recovery schemes meaningless if adequate care is not taken to readjust charges. I can recount that at one time the revenue collected $2 to start a suit in the Supreme Court here when file jackets (the basic office document with which the Court would store its documents) cost more than that.


If we see the need for an Ombudsman in local government, should we use the existing institution or do we create a new Ombudsman specifically for the local institutions? Empowering the existing office may produce far better results. Too often, our existing resources are not adequately endowed. The Ombudsman is a parliamentary commissioner, yet there is no special committee of Parliament to whom he reports. The same is true of the Contractor-General.


The Ombudsman institution is given great powers of investigation but no powers of enforcement against any of the administrative wrongs or human rights breaches that are uncovered. To make the office efficacious requires a special interest in the legislature. At the very least there should be a parliamentary committee to take the reports. Ideally, there should be a parliamentary committee for each specialist area in which the Office of the Ombudsman works.


Policy Development

Before we begin to reform, we must first decide what we want to achieve and why we want it. It is not enough to make an inefficient system work well if we ought not to have that system in the first place. Our existing local government structures still carry the heritage of the old vestry system. A system of Church government and social welfare removed from our political structures over a hundred and thirty years still influences how we administer local government. The existing statute under which we operate the Parish Councils was passed in 1901. To be sure, we have amended it many times but its original structure is almost a hundred years old.


We are rapidly intuiting that local government administration is costly and inefficient, which may be true, and on this basis we are disinclined to maintain it. It may well be that there are other reasons for local government other than the cleaning of markets and the maintenance of parochial roads but unless we search for this vision we will not find it. The institution of the Ombudsman will be employed whether it works to promote the efficacy of local government or not. However, if we can justify the existence of local government institutions, the Ombudsman institution will be there to augment and support them.









By Neville C. Duncan, Ph.D.

Senior Lecturer, Department of Government,

Sociology and Social Work

University of the West Indies

Cave Hill Campus, Barbados


About this paper

This paper examines briefly, the justification for a transformation of present State structures and the adoption of new governance arrangements, arguing for a pluri-partite structure involving central government with a re-strengthened local government and a variety of non-state actors and their organizations. It then looks at essential requirements of a local government structure, which characteristics are not fully nor securely present in the various forms of local government existent in the Anglophone Caribbean. The essential argument is that local government should be legislated as development agencies. This new capacity would be best effected through the recognition and acceptance of Central Government leaders and administrators of the "third economics" - an approach which recognizes as a valid macroeconomic approach the permitting of locality economy development through the provision of local work for local people in local areas and communities.



This is an era of persistent demands for significant participation in governance and an increasing degree of autonomy of civil society actors and groups from Central Government. This demand will not go away but will increase in intensity and form - some aspects tending to be anti-systemic.

In the normal situation, elected representatives "represent" the people of communities and localities without ever seriously discussing, even with their own constituents, issues of local, national, regional and international importance. In this age of the, so far, peaceful revolt of civil society, people can only be adequately represented if their representative associations, or networks of these associations, are formally involved in structured and meaningful formulation and decision-making activities with central and local governments.


Old politics presumably speaks for the people. The new governance approach says that the people, however organized, now want to speak directly, for themselves. It was previously the case that "representative institutions", in which the representatives acted solely according to their own consciences, were needed because people were remote physically and intellectually from the great issues of statecraft. In this context, the primacy of political parties, and even trade unions, in organising the people's business, was paramount. Remoteness in all senses is a situation of the past, and not the present, of the whole country being a "national city" with all the perquisites of a modem city -telephones, fax machines, e-mail, radio and television services, rapid physical transit, and fulsome access to the world.


The paradox is that this "brave new world" is not the Orwellian one of scrutiny and control (a world terribly feared by anarchists) but one where centralised control and dominance is no longer functional nor truly possible. The new world has come and more and more persons, groups and institutions are relishing what only the rich elite and intelligentsia previously understood and experienced. For the first time, in large-scale societies, more direct governance arrangements are feasible and promise to be more cost-effective and resource-use efficient. The call for a new governance structure, consciously arrived at, therefore, is not based primarily on the "romance" of participation and widened democracy (although these are highly desired outcomes). The argument simply is that it will be better than highly centralized state system.


The call for democratization, decentralization and deconcentration of power is one for a new governance arrangement which still leaves central government responsible for achieving the collective good of the society. It enables top politicians and administrators to concentrate on real leadership which can envision the society twenty years from now and begin to put in place the mechanisms, institutions and processes necessary to achieve this vision. Most of the functions which currently bog down leaders can thus, with positive effects, be shared down below with various partners in civil society and in decentralised governmental institutions.


Caribbean local government

The Caribbean local government system is inadequately developed despite the sterling efforts of the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) to ensure its spread and its legal and constitutional recognition and relative autonomy from central government.


Local government is a critical dimension of a reformed system of governance and hence its development is urgent. Local government is well-situated between central government and non-state actors and their organizations to play a meaningful role in community development and poverty reduction, thus effectively contributing to the "wealth" of the nation. It is to be strongly emphasized that local government should not be bypassed in the rush to generate parallel organizations and popular institutions. Its resuscitation is vital - an almost sine qua non.


The role of the State in actively promoting collaborative management and co-production activities remains a vital function of Central Government. The search for a national consensus of issues of development and societal change is fast becoming the most urgent of national Central Government function. A legal and constitutional framework needs to be provided by the State and, through a system of reformed governance, the necessary autonomy be provided for pluri-partite (including all the non-state actors) arrangements to function with the greatest efficiency and effectiveness.


Anglophone Caribbean models of local government should contain the following features:

1. constitutional or legal status;

2. Municipal and District Councils established as statutory
corporations so that local authorities can act fully as development agencies;

3. full electiveness;

4. well-defined financial autonomy; and

5. local authorities as community development and
empowering agencies as part of their constitutional and legal mandate.

Local government systems, where they exist, and in whatever forms they exist, are closer to targeted populations, are in a position to strengthen what people already do to survive economic recession and structural adjustment, and can join with credit unions, trade unions, business associations and NGOs, among others, in this common endeavour of empowering people. In this way they can prove to be effective instruments to work with the poor in communities to reduce poverty and generate "local work for people using local resources" oriented towards the internal market and placing the unmet needs of the population of the locality or region in the centre stage [Karl Birkholzer].


The efforts of the poor and disadvantaged have often been limited or stifled by the lack of transfer of adequate technological progress to what they do. Local governments, through their connections with central governments, through their ownership and control of vital equipment and facilities, and through their elected status, are well-placed to make themselves relevant in ensuring food security and the creation of economically productive environments.


Local government should be facilitated by constitutional, legal and institutional changes which promote decentralization, devolution and democratization of authority and power to be an integral part of the community development process. They are, increasingly, revealing the willingness and capacity to move firmly in this direction.


From a review of collaborative activities between local government and community groups, it became obvious that communities are fully capable of identifying their own needs, planning how to meet them, and implementing the agreed plan. In doing so, a variety of resources are mobilized which added tremendous value to the limited financial and material support provided by local and national government, other interest groups and the international community. If governments are prepared to tap into this dynamism and reservoir of effective governance, then considerable improvements can be made to the lives of people in a wide variety of ways.


Articulating Central Government Reform, Local Government Renewal and Non-State Sectors in a New Governance System

Although there has been the appearance of numerous NGOs in the Anglophone Caribbean, they do not and must not be allowed to supersede the role and function of local government, whether in a unitary system or as part of a federal government arrangement. More importantly, the responsibility of the State for social welfare and development must not be allowed to become decomposed. The power and authority of the State must, necessarily, however, be diffused to new centres of action closer to beneficiaries and involve the latter's meaningful participation at all stages, but the State remains central.


The reason is as simple as it is often overlooked in exaggerated views about what NGOs/non-state actors and local governments can do. None of these institutions (local government, NGOs/non-state actors) can, at any time, even with the most extensive and intensive capacity-building, be the agency through which the contradictions of planned change and induced development be primarily or ultimately addressed. It is in their interrelationship and shared, though not necessarily equal, responsibility, within the framework of a new system of governance, that a new synergy will be released which will produce better development and better government.


NGOs/non-state actors and local government should not be seen as competing forces which are better able to put people at the centre of development. They must of necessity collaborate. The weaknesses of the one are oftentimes delicately offset by the strengths of the other. NGOs may be seen, as Annis [19871 noted, as small scale, politically independent, low cost, and innovative - as positive attributes.


However, these features are unable to treat effectively with pervasive poverty and dispossession. They are unable to offer a sustained and integrated assault, lacking institutional and financial connectedness to central government, and lacking a general base rooted in representative elections. NGOs, however, have a direct legitimate basis, especially the grassroots organizations, through their activities. Their experiences, shared with national and local decision makers, provide invaluable lessons vital for conceiving development interventions. International donor agencies are rapidly learning this. The same points can be made in relation to NGO/government relations and the two with local government and other non-state actors. Central government lends itself to macro studies, NGOs to micro studies (especially of the types adumbrated in this report) and local government lends itself to neither. These are very general statements to, be sure, but they contain essential truths. Local Government's location between community and nation leaves it well-placed to, bring civil society and Central Government together in urgently productive relationships. It has to be ensured that well-planned decentralizing, devolving and democratizing exercises are designed with the full participation of these three groups, with labour and business fully involved, and which ensure that: there are sufficient resources to, enable local government and NGOs/Community-based organizations to, meet local needs for poverty reduction and economic and social development.


The right national policy framework is one in which an ethos in favour of maximum degrees of participation at all appropriate levels is accepted as part of the national consensus. It is axiomatic that the inputs of those actively engaged in the process and as beneficiaries also are invited early on to participate fully, and the tone and substance of the discussions and the report aim to achieve a consensus on programs, policies, and approaches. Central Government, in its leadership role, has to be committed to this ethos and be the initiator of the dialogue intended to achieve real results. The ethos embraces all the canons of good governance. Governments, local governments, NGOs, business and trade unions must be clear on the strategy and mission statement which they are trying to achieve and to which they are committed.


A Third Economics and Local Government Function

Rapid accumulation has been and remains the true basis of all successful development in any country. The more domestically derived is that process, the more sustainable is economic development, and the more the State is able to control it to ensure social equity at all levels of societal functioning. Understanding that capitalist restructuring actually intensifies the process of the accumulation of capital and profits away from poor and weaker countries to richer and stronger ones is critical to making the necessary domestic sacrifices to ensure one's own culturally-directed development.


With a focus on export-orientation and, within that, on finding niches in the new services and in communications, and with greater emphasis on the tourism sector, the phenomenon of split development occurs with zones of prosperity on one side and regional crisis on the other. These crisis areas require localised treatment and fall squarely within strategies of revitalising local government and working out partnership relations with non-state sectors. These provide appropriate institutional frameworks within which systematic efforts can be made to secure the existence of communities in their particular place, providing local work for local people using local resources. These issues are examined below, in indicative form.


One has to agree that:

What is needed is an effort of collective imagination. Market economies, free civil societies and representative democracy can take different institutional forms with marked consequences for society; and the competition between these different forms will generate new development alternatives and action. [Development. The Journal of the Society for International Development. 1996:3, Editorial note].

Also, one has to agree that:

What should be argued, instead, is that economic growth is rendered imperative not by the existence of poverty, but by the rules of the game. Rather than criticizing growth head on, the strategy consists in denouncing the negative effect that our addiction to growth has on democracy, and in putting forward strategies to regenerate democracy.... The alternative to mainstream economics, then, is not better economics, but economics with a radically different methodology, one we could call a 'democratic economics'. This would mainly be prospective: to imagine new games with different rules in order to enable the enlargement of the policy debates. [Franck Amalric, in Development, 1996:9].

Furthermore, Smith Kothari argued that in fact, what is hidden in the assumptions of 'free choice' and 'free trade' is that capitalist development itself inhibits the realization of vibrant and democratic civil society [Development, 1996:14-15], since, for instance, it engenders displacement, dispossession and marginalization of millions of people annually. Additionally, as he has noted, "in country after country, business interests are becoming national interests, while social and cultural interests are relegated to a secondary position, if not sacrificed altogether" [ibid. 15 1 ]. For him, "strategies that structurally address both inequalities and the lack of rights over productive resources will have to be mainstreamed" [ibid.]. As he further stated, "therefore democratization demands that the economy be restructured and socialized, and embedded in the values of social responsibility and ecological sustainability"[ibid.].


The mini and micro States of CARICOM need to maintain their sovereignty, capacity for self-determination, protect human rights of their citizens, and achieve sustainable and high quality livelihoods for all their peoples. Ensuring these outcomes requires social and political cohesion and legitimacy of the highest order and quality, exceeding that which obtains in larger and more powerful States. This level of social and political cohesion can only effectively be achieved under a new governance system based on reformed institutional structures in schools, churches, law courts, public and private bureaucracies, labour, political parties and family, and, additionally, in attitudes and values of individuals.


This is a great transformation. The reform of self and of the way of doing business will enable the mini and micro State to ward off most of the negative and exploitative impacts of the restructuring global order and permit the best choices to be made and the best practices to be undertaken. A reformed and revitalized governance system is a key instrument in helping the nation achieve the greatest likelihood of success in this grand endeavour.


There is need to bring the State back in, but as the reformed Caribbean State. Under colonialism, in the Anglophone Caribbean, colonial government was "captured" by the planter and mercantile classes, while, at times, some colonial Governors from Britain sought to establish a relative degree of autonomy, and to act more on behalf of the disadvantaged and for the society as a whole (in areas such as public health and road building). In the Anglophone Caribbean, because the "revolt of labour" and the rise of mass-based political parties occurred before formal independence, the full capture of the independent Caribbean State by powerful economic interests was thereby modified by the clientelistic relations between State politicians and voters. Nonetheless, the State was still incapacitated to act in the interest of the society as a whole. In a new governance structure, a major concern is how to achieve the governance capacity to "coordinate the aggregating of divergent interests and thus promote policy that can credibly be taken to represent the public interest" [Leila Frischtak].


In this new governance structure, there is the opportunity to forsake the undercapacitating activities of the colonial and post independence past of over-regulating and over-interfering in economic processes and, instead, cauterize powerful interest groups and partisan interests out of policy-making, acquiring at least a minimal degree of autonomy of the State, and achieving an effective public capacity for promoting development. Politics is to be understood as "the activities of conflict, cooperation and negotiation involved in the use, production and distribution if resources, whether material or ideal, and whether at local, national or international level" [Leftwich].


A Three-Sector National Economic System?

A new economics

Karl Birkholzer, in an article entitled "Promoting community self reliance in Europe" [Development. The Journal of the Society for International Development. Civil Society: the third sector in action. 1996:60-631, recognized a phenomenon of split development with zones of prosperity on the one side and regional crisis on the other. The results of progressive growth are concentrated in certain areas, while, simultaneously, neighbouring regions, towns and communities are suffering social and economic decline [ibid.]. The indicators for the emergence of crisis regions are always identical: a growing number of long-term unemployed people; an increasing impoverishment, private as well as public; and the consequent neglect and/or collapse of infrastructure [ibid.]. Our response to finding solutions to socio-economic transformations which work and are sustainable must recognize this aspect, and design appropriate strategies to overcome the problem.


Birkholzer notes that the goal of creating long-term sustainable structures for crisis regions needs to be established. Projects and models need to provide more than emergency aid or 'niche economy' and, instead, develop the kernel of a now economic system for the future [ibid.]. The contours of a new and third sector of the economy may then be developed which distinguishes itself as much from the traditional market economy as from the State-directed economy [ibid.]. This sector would be designed to achieve what traditional concepts of economic policy have not achieved since they merely 'refurbish' individual parts at the cost of the whole [ibid]. A change of perspective is required, and this must involve the five elements: a new economic dimension, social investment, employment versus unemployment, adjacent markets, and sustainable development [ibid.]. The task can be described as how a given population can secure the existence of its community in a particular place, in which and from which its members live, with the resources available in that place (the endogenous potential) and on the basis of the following principle: local work for local people using local resources [ibid.]. Sustainable development viewed in this way reveals that it is precisely in crisis regions that plant investment or infrastructural outlays cannot be the motor of economic regeneration [ibid].


Paradoxically, crisis regions reveal no lack of work, despite the prevalent high unemployment figures [ibid.]. Consequently the objective of labour market policies must be to finance the necessary work, instead of financing unemployment [ibid.]. Long-term joblessness has been provided for neither in the principle of unemployment insurance, nor in the traditional 'tools of job creation policies [ibid.]. Long-term unemployment is, on the contrary, an inadequacy of the economic system itself, not of the individual affected [ibid.].


From an economic standpoint, however, redundancy cannot be acceptable as a concept for revitalizing the economy, because those same people are actually a part of the economy [ibid.]. Crisis regions require a different and autonomous concept of development, one that is orientated towards the internal market, and places the unmet needs of the population of the locality or region in the centre stage [ibid.].


Birkholzer notes that this will require not only a protective attitude to human and material resources, but also the development of new adapted technologies, whose level of efficiency will no longer be measured by increases in mass production or the reductions in unit costs, but rather, among others, by social and ecological criteria [ibid.]. Nothing less is needed than a root-and-branch transformation of our system of production and work [ibid.]. Placed at the centre of local economic and social policies are the goals of creating an independent, community sector within the economy.


The novel and future-orientated aspect of such forms of enterprise is the attempt to overcome the contradiction between economic and social interests by uniting producers and consumers in one enterprise, whereby economic activity is made subordinate to democratic controls and economic models are developed with the aim of realizing social and ecological objectives [ibid.].


None of this is truly possible without non-state actors working with the State and local government. The kernel of such a third economic sector is obviously a renewed and vitalized local government. By its elected representativeness, its legal and constitutional status, its status as a corporate entity, its connection with central government through accountable and transparent financial arrangements, and its explicit performance of the role of a developmentalist organization, local government becomes the primary official institution at the level of localities and communities which is invested with the authority and power to act in the collective interests of those residing within the delimited region. It is therefore vital, in the extreme, that radical and urgent reform of the local government system be undertaken within the framework of a new system of governance, with the equally urgent responsibility of strengthening other civil society institutions within a legislated national framework of participation. Much has to change, and immediately, if we are to successfully face the globalization and regionalization challenges which confront the Anglophone Caribbean.



This paper never set out to be all-inclusive and exhaustive. However, it is claimed that extremely important aspects of challenges for civil society organizations in the Anglophone Caribbean, Haiti and Suriname over the next ten years were identified. The body of this text was a way of envisioning a Caribbean future in which new governance and development structures everywhere in this region would meet the criteria as established. The non-state sectors are a vital part of a new structure of governance which would resist capture by powerful economic interests domestically and internationally and eschew patronage and clientelistic politics in favour of a new partnership with central government and the non-state sectors. This reformed State, it is hoped, would recognize the necessity to transfer a significant proportion of the national revenues to villages and rural areas and adopt a third sector economic development approach, which could provide local work for local people in local communities. In all of these processes, non-state sectors will find an appropriate place with central and local government to defend and realize national sovereignty, achieve social equity and protect human rights in the face of the awesome changes occurring in a rapidly re-structuring world, yet to become, in any significant measure, globalized.


Neville Duncan, June 6, 1998