PM charges local authorities to expedite granting of building permits

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – Bemoaning the unacceptable rankings of the granting of building permits by the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Report, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has mandated municipal corporations to prioritise the issue in their discussions at the inaugural Local Governance Conference now underway in Montego Bay.

The conference, put on by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa in Rose Hall, St James, from July 17-19, is staged under the theme: “Strengthening Responsiveness and Accountability within the Local Governance Framework”.

“There is one area in particular which gives me cause for great concern. And that is the area of building approvals, where starting up business, we are doing very well, we are ranked number five. Dealing with construction permits, 98. So I thought that I would take this opportunity to bring this to the attention of this august gathering of local government practitioners that we are not practising the kind of local government that signals responsiveness as it relates to permitting and approvals. At 98, I hope that it makes it at the top of your list for discussion,” the prime minister charged.

He was quick to add that he is aware that the problem does not rest solely with local government, “but we cannot allow internal territorial behaviour to slow up national progress”. Holness, therefore, made it clear that he will be taking a very serious look at the business process involved in approvals and permitting.

“The territorial nature which is amazing in that we are in one government but at times we are very territorial – that has led to the slowing up of approvals. And one thing I have to contemplate as the prime minister is how do I get the government to be more efficient. And I am absolutely committed to the process of getting government efficient,” Holness argued.

The prime minister argued that in order to expedite the process of approvals and permitting some outdated processes “that don't need to exist anymore and we will be just eliminating those off the list”.

In the meantime, Holness also noted that it has come to his attention that the employment of the Application Management and Data Analysis (AMANDA) software is not where it ought to be and should also be chief among discussions at the conference.

“We have put in place the AMANDA system. We have put in place the computers to assist it, the internet is there to support it. I am hoping that you have been training your staff to use it. But I gather that the take-up and use of it is not where it is supposed to be or could be. So I am hoping at this conference when you are discussing responsiveness and accountability that the AMANDA system is on the top of your list,” Holness argued.

“We can't spend this money to put in place a system to use a technology-supported system and then we don't use it.”

This conference, which will be held every two years, aims to raise the readiness of the political and administrative leadership in the Local Authorities to execute their roles and functions within the context of enhancing the local and national processes of economic growth and development.

Led by Minister of Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, representatives from agencies in the local government ministry, at least one regional mayor and local mayors are among other stakeholders in attendance at the conference.

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