Black Immigrant Daily News
The Government has posited that it needs more time to ensure that the country’s economic recovery is sustained before it is in a position to call the local government elections.
As a result, the elections, which were due by February 28, have been further postponed by one year until February 28, 2024.
The announcement was made by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie in the House of Representatives on Tuesday during the debate on the The Representation of the People (Postponement of Elections to Municipal Corporation and City Municipalities) Act.
This is the third time since 2020 that McKenzie has come to the Parliament to announce that local government elections will be delayed, each time by a year.
The elections, which are constitutionally due every four years were last held in November 2016. However, they were postponed in November 2020 with the government stating then that the public health risk from the COVID-19 pandemic was too high. This despite Jamaicans going to the polls two months earlier in September to cast their ballots in the general election.
The local polls were again postponed until February 28 this year after the government said the country was still being impacted by COVID-19.
On Tuesday, McKenzie said that while Jamaica’s recovery from the pandemic has been lauded internationally, the country’s economy was still in a fragile state.
“We’re in a better position than we were last year but it is clear that we are not yet out of the woods,” McKenzie stated.
He told the House that the Government was sharply focused on two main things: “building national resilience against any further economic shock whether manmade or natural disaster, and the expansion and the maintenance of strong economic growth that all our citizens can feel and see at a personal level”.
“It is carefully considered, the position of the Government, that the holding of the municipal elections at this time will carry a significant risk, diverting the country from these two vital tasks,” McKenzie added.
Continuing, he said: “The elections are of importance, however, the Government is seeking a little more time to ensure that the significant expenditure that elections require will be effectively managed alongside other priorities in the economy”.
McKenzie also told the Parliament that the postponement will allow time to conclude consultations towards ensuring that Portmore becomes Jamaica’s 15th parish.
The parliamentary Opposition did not support the postponement, with Phillip Paulwell, the leader of Opposition business in the House, questioning the real reasons for the postponement.
Paulwell also noted that at least 15 divisions were without representation for up to four years for various reasons, including because councillors had died in office.
And the Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern, Julian Robinson, argued that, in both good and bad times, governments have a responsibility to budget for an election.
Amid the spirited debate and with much finger pointing and back and forth as to which administration did more for local government, the 29 government members present voted in support of the postponement while eight Opposition members voted ‘no’ and, in the end, walked out of the chamber.