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National Assembly passes local gov’t bills unanimously

The National Assembly Wednesday evening unanimously passed the four local government bills ending a 12-year reformation process. 

The four bills were seen as essential to the holding of local government elections last held in 1994 but officials from GECOM have said that they would need at least six months from the assent of the legislation to prepare for the polls.

The bills were sent to a Special Select Committee in January ago after talks at a bipartisan taskforce broke down.

However, Committee Chairman Basil Williams said that they had alerted GECOM already to the likely passage of the legislation and it should have been preparing for the elections.

A GECOM official had told DemWaves that a significant amount of public education on the new system would have to be done.

The Fiscal Transfers Bill addresses the equitable provision of resources to the various local government organs and provides for them to generate their own revenue. The Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill updates the fines, fees and other charges within the municipalities.

However, Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud called for the scrapping of five amendments in the Local Government (Amendment) Bill which removed certain powers from the minister and will vest them in an autonomous Local Government Commission. But his plea was rejected by the opposition MPs who dubbed it a return to colonial thinking.

Junior local government minister Norman Whittaker said the bill had been “hijacked” in the Committee by the opposition. According to him, the parties had gone beyond opposing and were now “obstructing” progress.

The debates on the Local Government (Amendment) and the Local Government Commission Bills both saw the government proposing amendments with two being unanimously adopted for the first while the AFC supported the government’s amendment on the latter.

The AFC’s move represented a backtracking from their Select Committee support for changing the composition of the Local Government Commission.