A Paradigm Shift for Local Government

Now that the Local Government elections are in the air, and legislation is being drafted, there must be an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the system.   This paradigm shift must take into account the new issues and challenges that face the 21st century society. This means that the Local Government representatives must be competent to forge new alliances and partnerships with religious, sporting, cultural, business, women’s, trade unions, service organizations, self-help commission, corporate entities, foreign missions and international philanthropic institutions.

A Paradigm Shift for Local Government
Photo : Paras Ramoutar

(Former councillor)

Now that the Local Government elections are in the air, and legislation is being drafted, there must be an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the system.   This paradigm shift must take into account the new issues and challenges that face the 21st century society. This means that the Local Government representatives must be competent to forge new alliances and partnerships with religious, sporting, cultural, business, women’s, trade unions, service organizations, self-help commission, corporate entities, foreign missions and international philanthropic institutions.

We must seek to twin major international cities and organizations which suffered similar indignities and problems, and have survived them. In this age of globalization, such initiatives are imperative.  This must be the genesis for the Second Vision for our nation. We must aim to transform it from its present status as a prominent Third World society to a fully developed First World nation through integrated actions simultaneously in infrastructural, economic, cultural, social, sporting, environmental and human resources development. Local Government must become the catalyst in the movement for change. Our system of Local Government must be driven in such way as to create a new leadership, and as well endow leaders in the different spheres of politics, economics, industry, science, arts and culture.  Let us hope that the proposed legislation would mirror these thoughts.

There must be a complete overhaul and restoration of both the spirit and the manifestation of politics and people in action among ourselves. This is how a nation must develop and build itself. Leaders come and leaders go, but the cause of the nation continues into infinity. People continue to complain for such amenities as agricultural access roads, main roads, water, street-lights, drainage, electricity, phones, sporting facilities, floods, health care, environmental issues, bridges and transport services.

The people, their problems and their triumphs must be our focus at all times. Our approach must be at all times philosophical,yet pragmatic and humane. People must be given the opportunity to intervene in their own development and by effecting this model, we will be ushering meaningful consultative and participatory governance. There must be development plans for each municipality, as is the case of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation. This will be done with all the major stakeholders inclusive of all corporate organizations at Point Lisas. They too, must not only become a reluctant social partner, but must become serious social and economic partners in this development thrust. We have to play an integral part in crime prevention, substance abuse and help to rescue our young people from further withering away. We must initiate training, social and cultural programmes for them. Additionally, we must provide them with institutions and equipment. The Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme(YTEPP) is one such noble vehicle for youth empowerment and mobility in Trinidad and Tobago.  The Tobago House of Assembly model with the necessary modifications could be a working example.  As a matter of urgency, each Corporation must establish a professionally-organised Information Unit with councillors hold secretarial posts for the different dimension and programmes at the corporations, boroughs or city councils which will offer guidance and advice to all those who seek our assistance. In order to educate and inform the electorate of our operations and workings, we must publish a bi-monthly newspaper for distribution. In an effort to bring our system closer to the populace, we must take our meetings to the people in every area of its jurisdiction.

Definitive attempts must be implemented to alleviate human suffering at all social and economic costs on the pathway to improve the human condition. This must be another challenge for the Local Government in 2020 and beyond. The intellectual, social, political and cultural development are indispensable factors for inclusiveness in our society. There must not be any withering away from this ideal.   All of us here can be regarded as great coordinators of the past, and the present leading to the future, symbolic as a new light leading to a better, secured and enlightening future, which is recognized as an objective of history. And that is a sign of progress.   All leaders, including ourselves, must never forget that history is progress through the transmission of acquired skills from one generation to another. Councillors must not become messengers of their MPs or Ministers, rather they must work in tandem with other, and so doing would ensure proper and effective representation  

It is my fervent aspiration that Local Government  practitioners works will be that vehicle to metamorphose us from weakness to strength, darkness to light, and knowledge to wisdom. Any initiative for community empowerment or decentralization must have its genesis from the Local Government process. Local Government is the medium for community empowerment and as well, it must be viewed in the context as a system in synthesis with village councils, civic entities and the like. No leader of any government whether it be in Third World, Second World or First World, if these groupings still exist, must continue to ignore the important role of Local Government. In most countries, and there are numerous examples, working ones, that it is Local Government which provides most of the basic amenities for an improved quality of life. Trinidad and Tobago must not be left behind considering our intellectual human resource capability. 

 Constitutional reform must insert Local Government as an integral governing process, and therefore, it must be inscribed as a major functionary of governance.  Failure to enact it in our Constitution will be an act of irresponsibility to the governed by the governors.  It is a betrayal of the Representative Government ideal.   The Existentialist Philosopher, Carl Jaspers, has stated in, “The Origin and Goal of History”, P.27: “The apprehension of history as a whole, leads beyond history. The unity of history is itself no longer history. To grasp this unity means to pass above and beyond history into the matrix of this unity, through that unity which enables history to become a whole…We do not live in the knowledge of history, in so far, however, as we live by unity, we live supra historically in history.” For life is a manifestation of spiritual history. This is not a new trend of thought. We can measure up and respond to this challenge as Trinidad and Tobago celebrates its 57th Independence Anniversary, August 31, 2019.