“Hey! I’ve got a question for you. What is Local Government, really?”

Good question.

You work in a big company, with headquarters in Canada. They have a Board of Directors and a big management team, right? They make all the big decisions about the company – where to have branches, what products to sell, when to downsize, that kind’a thing. But you don’t rely on them to tell you who to hire to clean the office or what brand of paper to use, do you? They take care of the big, global stuff, and your manager here handles the local decisions. The better the local managers do their job, the more profitable the company is. Local Government frees the National Government to deal with the big decisions and leaves the local decisions to local management, improving the country’s overall performance.

“Makes sense. But isn’t that what we do now?”

Not really. Remember the V. Alfred Gray incident a few months ago? It doesn’t matter what really happened. What matters is that a National Government Minister made a call to a so-called Local Government manager and the manager felt that he was being instructed to make a decision. The Minister didn’t even have to say, “Do this”. What we call Local Government is really an extension of the National Government. The matter in question was purely local, and should not have had National interference.

“So you think it’s worth spending the money to have more government?”

That, too, is a great question. Can we afford Local Government? The answer is we have no choice. Local Government is necessary if we want a government that helps us really develop a country. Here’s five reasons:

  1. You can’t focus on two things at the same time, and neither can the Government. They have to focus on national issues, to create strategies for relationships with other countries, national defense, overall planning for the country’s future. There’s no way they can also focus on who picks up your garbage or cleans your car or paints the local school. Or on what you need to create a better community environment or to improve your local economy. Those things are for you to focus on. The first reason is Governance.
  2. As a citizen, you are responsible for the success of your country. You expect to live up to that responsibility by participating in the decision-making process, not just by choosing someone to make your decisions for you every five years. Making noise is not an effective form of participation in the building of the nation. The second reason is Participation.
  3. Sustained development requires sustained focus. The National Government’s responsibility is to respond to the current needs of the country as a whole. Your community’s agenda will therefore seldom be its focus. Hence, we have become accustomed to the Government’s habit of “launch and leave”. The third reason is Development.
  4. Leadership is trained, not selected or anointed. The training ground for political leaders is in the communities, at the local level, not in Cabinet. You will never get growth in the quality of leadership without the availability of a Local Government training ground. The fourth reason is Leadership Training.
  5. The economy of the nation is the sum total of the economies of the various communities. Vibrant local economies require sustained, local direction and local decision-making, especially about incentives, forward planning and the conditions for investment. Local Government is able to maintain a focus on the vision for the local economy, and to make decisions that are in keeping with that vision. The fifth reason is Building an Economy.

“Wow! I never realized how important Local Government is.”

The Bahamas is the only country I’ve found that doesn’t have at least a second level. The US, for eample, has five levels: the Federal, the State, County, Municipal or City and (in the case of New York City) the Borough levels. I know we are a special people, but denying ourselves good governance is certainly not an expression of genius.

April 3, 2016