UNC slams PNM's 10 'pillars' of local govt reform

San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein. -
San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein. -

OPPOSITION MP Saddam Hosein has slammed the PNM's ten "pillars" of local government reform, calling it a "sham."

Hosein was speaking at the UNC's weekly media briefing in Port of Spain on Sunday morning.

In 2019, under then minister of rural development and local government Kazim Hosein, a series of graphics were posted to the ministry's page to explain these "pillars."

And with 2023 local government elections set for August 14, the PNM has since reposted a summary initially posted in 2020 – reminding the public of what they entail.

The pillars are security and funding, executive authority, new responsibilities, local contractors, more effective municipal policing, developmental control, infrastructure works, disaster management, involvement of civil society and regional development plans.

Hosein said that within eight years, the PNM struggled to achieve basics as it relates to local government such as building box drains, fixing potholes and cleaning watercourses to prevent flooding, "but they want to boast about ten pillars of local government reform."

He said it's a "gimmick" and a "sham," riddled with misinformation "to fool the population to get support in elections."

On the point of security and funding, the graphics say local government bodies will get to keep certain taxes and revenues collected within their boundaries to use for their own development.

Hosein said people are complaining about joblessness and expressing frustration as they're unable to afford basics, but that the PNM is now asking the public to fund local government reform through property tax.

He suggested the government consider how regional corporations can contribute towards tourism to earn money.

"Instead of taxing people who simply can't afford the tax, you could generate revenue through our local talent, through our natural resources, our citizens...but no, their entire idea is property tax."

Hosein said the promise that local government bodies will get autonomy similar to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is not possible.

This, he said, is because the THA is embodied in the Constitution while the Municipal Corporation Act is a simple act of Parliament.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister said the management system that currently exists within the 14 municipal corporations is weak, faulty and needs to change.

“What passes now for local government is a sham. We can do a whole lot better, but we have to change a number of things. The first thing is to accept that what we have is not the best that we can do," he said.

Addressing the third "pillar" – new responsibilities – Hosein said he was confused by this given recent comments from Dr Rowley.

Hosein said if the local government bodies can't do the job effectively now, giving them new responsibilities "without the funding and without the resources" is pointless.

Hosein spoke in detail of what he believes to be fallacies within each "pillar," adding that the upcoming election is about "sending a strong message to this government" that the people are fed up.

Recently, Rowley also urged the public to vote for the PNM for local government reform.

Hosein said that is a "bogus" statement as that is now mandated by law, so any party will be required to do so.

Opposition MP Anita Haynes also slammed comments made by Rowley but on the topic of education.

Rowley recently said the secondary school curriculum needs to be changed so that fewer students leave without improvement and are less susceptible to being drawn into crime.

Haynes was puzzled as to how Rowley had only just realised this.

She also questioned why the government is saying something needs to be done about this when that is their job.

"You have a prime minister, you have a minister of education that would come on a press conference, go to a fundraiser, go somewhere and say anything that pops into their head and they will not use any data to drive actual policymaking.

"Since the Prime Minister has a concern, since he's very concerned about what our school system is producing and whether or not it is efficiently able to give young persons an opportunity to get a job when they come out of the system, what have you done with that concern?"

She said his concern is valid but still could not understand how the government is unaware "that the people to change it are the people in power."


"UNC slams PNM's 10 'pillars' of local govt reform"

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