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Political scientist: Give local govt more power

Friday, September 25, 2015

Government needs to constitutionally entrench local government in order to give it more power and autonomy says political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath.

As it stands, Ragoonath says, Cabinet can, at the stroke of a pen, do away with local Government altogether.

Ragoonath was among a panel of speakers discussing local government reform at the National Library on Abercromby Street yesterday.

The discussion was part of the Constitution Reform Forum (CRF) Republic Day forum, entitled Bringing Local Government Closer to the People.

Ragoonath, who was part of a two member panel with former councillor in the San Fernando City Corporation Daren Mc Leod, said corporations had the control over policy and could not make decisions on their own.

“We treated local government in the past, simply as an administrative arm of the government. We need to move further away and give local government a lot more autonomy and a lot more strength to do what they need to do.”

Ragoonath said local government reform didn’t necessarily need constitutional reform but it would be better if it was constitutionally entrenched.

“In that way, that central government doesnt have the power to simply do away with local government.”

“I am almost certain if the government goes to the opposition and say we want to amend the constitution to entrench the local government, they will get the support.”

Ragoonath has been part of discussions on local government reform since the topic first gained traction in the early 2000s and said the issue had not moved much further than discussions and papers on the issue.

Mc Leod, who spent three years as a councillor, said the current local government system was problematic in that there was redundancy regarding the role of the MP and the role of councillors.

He said the role of councillors were not clearly defined and so councillors found themselves doing work, which the MP would then take up.

Mc Leod said funding constraints as well as human resource issues also contributed to a system that wasnt working. —Kalifa Clyne


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