Public Participation in Local Government in Jamaica


  • Jimmy Tindigarukayo Fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, The University of the West Indies, Mona


The general philosophy of Local Government reform Professor Mills has argued, is  "decentralized administration, controlled by a democratic participating society at the community level" (Mills 1974: 9). Along similar lines, Jones (1996: 10) has also argued that for local government reforms to be successful, they have to incorporate at least the following three policy initiatives relating to public participation: effective citizen participation in all transactions that affect their lives and life chances; systems of co-managing, co-guiding, co-steering and partnerships within and throughout communities; and capacity building throughout the system to solve a range of community needs and problems.

In line with this, and for purposes of this study, public participation is defined as the involvement of members of civil society in the activities of local government, whereby citizens are given genuine control over decisions that affect their lives. Public participation, thus defined, is characterized by the following advantages (Jones 1998: 63; Girvan 1995): economic value; control; rootedness; transparency; and solidarity. Despite these advantages, the level of public participation in the Jamaican Local Government has been very minimal. The paper then discusses some reasons underlining the lack of public participation in Jamaican local government.