Challenges for Local Government in the Caribbean


  • Bishnu Ragoonath Senior Lecturer, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine


Caribbean local government authorities have historically and to this day been viewed as critical to our region's development. The challenge however is how do we actually operationalize local government to achieve this developmental capacity? Moreover, in the context of good governance, the concern arises as to how to rebuild credibility to a system, which for many years has been 'hijacked' and even emasculated by central governments, at the same time being an arena for corruption and mismanagement, all in the context of self-interest, political expediency and even party paramountcy.

This paper, while not seeking to be exhaustive, addresses some of these considerations. It starts by outlining the conceptual framework through which the author analyzes the principles and practices of governance, particularly in relation to democracy within a local government framework. It then reviews the reality of Caribbean local government and thereafter embarks on a discussion of the implementation or lack of implementation of democracy and inclusiveness within such systems. It concludes with policy recommendations for reforming Caribbean local governments in order that governance and participatory democracy might be restored and revitalized. In adopting this framework of analysis, it must be reiterated that whilst the concept of good governance is significantly broad, involving several ideals, namely democracy, development and public management, this paper concentrates on the considerations relating to democracy and participation. In adopting such a perspective however, the paper is cognizant of the fact that the concerns of participation and democracy are not exclusive of the considerations related to public management and development, and as such, the discussion  includes all the ideals of governance. While the paper is grounded in the theoretical literature, it is however geared towards establishing policy directions.