Rowley: Reform will fix woes of local government

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The PM addresses MPs on the Privy Council ruling and the local government elections,
Parliament Chamber, Red House Port of Spain
Wednesday, May 24, 2023. – ROGER JACOB

The Prime Minister on Wednesday advocated for local government reform by saying it could fix many of the shortcomings of corporations that the Opposition now complains of.

His advice came during debate to upgrade Siparia and Diego Martin Regional corporations to boroughs.

He said local government reform was all about getting better management and letting burgesses have greater management in their own affairs.

He hit back at opposition criticisms of the borough bill by asking why had they not used the opportunity when in government to rescind the borough status of Chaguanas granted in 1990. Rowley said Diego Martin residents, through their elected representatives, have asked for borough status.

Endorsing borough status for Arima, he said borough status was awarded on the basis of size but also due to a community identity and sense of culture.

Rowley chided Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram – who had spoken before him – for saying “Things were not happening in local government” and for seemingly advocating no other solution than for Government to call the elections.

Saying Government sought a new modernised management of corporations, he urged MPs to look to the Tobago House of Assembly’s record over the past 40 years. He said local government reform would fix existing woes.

Rowley said he could not understand how Penal/Debe Regional Corporation could say they could not collect garbage because it had no gasoline for its garbage trucks.

He queried Sangre Grande Regional Corporations inability to cut grass at its recreation fields, to the detriment of local youngsters.

“The THA can cut grass any day of the week because they have a revenue stream.” Reform would make representatives more accountable, he argued.

Later on, the PM’s record was defended by Minister of Local Government Faris Al-Rawi against Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s charges that Rowley once advocated for the property tax.

Al-Rawi said the key difference was that previous that tax had been mooted to raise funds for central government but now it was being suggested as the funding mechanism for local government.