Local government for New Providence
Published: Oct 02, 2013
The abject failure of successive administrations to usher in local governance for New Providence is a sad indictment on our political masters as they have demonstrated time and time again that they have absolutely no faith in the ability of residents of the capital island to manage their own local affairs.
We have had local government in the Family Islands for over a decade. Residents of those islands regularly go to the polls and elect district councils and councilors. There is a mayor of sorts in the form of the chief councilor. These elected bodies and individuals are mandated to manage and maintain local community services such as schools, clinics and garbage collections, etc.
Here in New Providence, where all of the essentials services are provided (or not provided) by the central government and lorded over by Cabinet ministers and entrenched civil servants, we have witnessed the decay of accountability and the total lack of accountability.
There is no logical or plausible argument as to why New Providence should not have four districts to govern and regulate its affairs such as suggested above. Residents from within the districts could pay reasonable rates into a fund to pay for and maintain such services.
If a park in the southern district requires mowing and trimming, who better to actually know of that necessity and immediately address it than the council for that district? People who live in a district and are currently unemployed but have marketable skills that could be utilized by a particular district council could be engaged to render a service.
Why should the Ministry of the Environment, for instance, be mandated to ensure the timely collection of garbage for the entire island of New Providence when it has very few working trucks? To repair the derelict trucks and/or to replace them would cost millions of dollars.
If the central government initially provides at least two garbage trucks, paid for or donated to us by the People’s Republic of China or the U.S., to each district council, the residents could be billed a reasonable monthly garbage collection fee for services. From the proceeds, the councils could then pay for the trucks and hire the required crews to work the same. Garbage could then be collected twice per week or as needed.
Services such as electrical supplies and health care would remain within the central government as would major roadworks and infrastructural development. The minor repairs to potholes, the clearance of drains and the maintenance of road verges and public spaces should all be done under the authority and guidance of the relevant district council.
Not only would the New Providence-based MPs have more time to devote to national issues and concerns, but their power to lord it over the citizens of the capital island would be greatly diluted. We would see a dramatic deepening of democracy here in this island.
George Smith, a former Cabinet minister and member of Parliament for the Exumas, has long been an advocate for the introduction of local government to New Providence. Indeed, he was instrumental in its setting up and implementation within the Family islands decades ago.
Yet, 20 odd years later the political powers that be, inclusive of the “defunct” FNM and the often bumbling PLP, are seemingly either afraid or reluctant to allow the same for the residents of New Providence. Why is this and why are the residents not demanding the same?
Simple, the average human being would much rather someone else manage to take care of matters which they themselves could do a better job of overseeing. Most of us are, alas, regretfully lazy and intellectually challenged. The direct result of this is the rapid emergence and development of the dependency culture which is now large and in charge in The Bahamas generally but here in New Providence in particular.
As executive director of The Public Policy Institute and Common Cause, I call upon this gold rush administration to establish its legacy by the introduction of local government to New Providence within the next 18 months. Smith should be brought in as a paid consultant to assist with such a historic and democratic transformation.
Just how the PLP constituted a committee to prepare for the 40th independence anniversary celebrations, which, in my view, failed miserably, it should set up and adequately fund such a committee to oversee the introduction of local government to New Providence.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
– Ortland H. Bodie Jr.