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Special Administrators & Chief Executive Officers Workshop - Col Saumatua
Colonel S. Saumatua
Minister for Local Government,
Urban Development, Housing & Environment
Special Administrators & Chief Executive Officers Workshop
Wednesday 28th September, 2011 [Ba Town Council]
The Special Administrators, Chief Executive Officers, Ministry officials, our stakeholders, Ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to join you this morning for the 3rd quarter Local Government Consultative Forum. I acknowledge our hosts, the Ba Town Council for the hospitality and warm welcome.
Your role as the local government is much more than “roads, rates, and rubbish” - important as these are for local citizens. The role of local government does go, and must increasingly go, beyond its traditional service delivery, and seek to provide the kind of strategic leadership which is needed to energise local economies and communities.
Local government bears direct witness to the persistent and extreme poverty which still beset so many of our communities; to the damage caused by natural disasters and environmental degradation; to the impact of the global recession and of high food and fuel prices on local people; and to the effects of discrimination and social exclusion. In tackling such problems, local governments must be seen as critical components of integrated systems of governance.
From a conference that we attended in Cambodia recently there was an invitation to a Call for Action seeking to coordinate development partners, national and local governments, civil society, and the private sector in fostering local development. Adopted by the six hundred delegates present, the declaration called on development stakeholders to work to “empower local governments and their associations to realize fully their potential as key agents of change and development”.
We should all be working towards improving the economic productivity of towns and cities in the country. I have on several occasions reminded the municipalities to move away from the culture of doing business as usual. Much of the obstacles to doing business in towns are caused by the bureaucratic culture of the past. Towns and cities will have to understand, think and respond like the private sector if you want to survive.
The Ministry is therefore spearheading moves to streamline procedures for business licensing and building/construction approvals that businesses have to comply with at the municipal level. The work will necessitate collaboration with stakeholders including the business community and relevant arms of Government.
While the outcomes of the exercise are expected to help improve Fiji’s business climate and global Ease of Doing Business ranking, they would also facilitate Government’s achievement of the key objectives of Pillar 4 and 5 of the People’s Charter, which are to foster efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and at the same time, support sustainable economic growth through a more business-friendly regulatory environment.
I believe that if communities are denied opportunity, justice, and inclusion, then inevitably the stability and peace needed for development progress is undermined. They want decent work, an end to corruption and abuse, better services, and government which is responsive and accountable. They are driven by revulsion of injustice, poverty, and repression. They want change which addresses fundamental deficits in human development in their communities.
Local governments, with clear mandate, adequate financing, and sufficient capacity are critical to generating such ownership. Through participatory processes to develop local strategies, a broad based consensus on the way forward can be sought - and hopefully achieved.Critical to the theme of this forum on energising local economies, local governments are the centre of economic growth and can use their convening power to bring together public, private, and non-governmental stakeholders - helping them to identify the values and priorities they share, and serving as an interface with higher tiers of government.
Gender Empowering and Expanding Opportunities
Women are often the catalysts of change in their communities and districts, and we work to support their participation in local government.
I am pleased to note that UNWOMEN is assisting our women vendors in their representation and participation within our local government arena.
Mainstreaming Gender issues in our policies and operations is mandatory under the nations global instrument and domestic policies
There is evidence to suggest that where women have a strong presence on local communities, they are likely to use their weight to prioritize investments in areas that are so critical to human health and development. Indeed another key driver of progress is investing in basic services and these areas are generally a core responsibility for local governments.
Clean Energy access
In this climate-stressed age, generating energy which is clean is also a huge priority. Local government can be a promoter of that – and can lead by example in making its own operations carbon neutral.
Lami town council will be the first to have all vehicles operated using biofuel.
More broadly, adapting to and mitigating climate change falls well within the province of local government. The first line of civil defence and emergency response is at the community level. Disaster risk management now must take more frequent and severe climate-related events into account, and plan for greater resilience. This will often require coordinated effort by local and national actors. THE QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO ASK YOURSELF; “ARE WE READY THEN TO TAKE ON EMERGENCY RESPONSE IN ANY SITUATION”
this is an opportunity to modernise our economies and develop new resources of sustainable growth and jobs. it is an opportunity to strengthen our energy security, reduce air pollution and the high health cost associated with it. Green, low carbon growth is much more than an opportunity to contain climate change and many of the other environmental challenges we face.
In summary, local government has a lot to offer in accelerating progress and energising development overall. I expected the SA’s and the CEO’s to be committed to helping local governments fulfil their potential as agents of change and development, including through energising local economies. We work with national governments to support them with its plans which shift functions and resources to the appropriate levels. Part of that shift must be a commitment to capacity building and to producing access to sufficient resources so that local government can carry out its functions effectively. An old bone of contention between central and local levels of government is that the former devolves responsibilities and functions to the latter without providing means of funding!
In our endeavours, we look forward to ongoing collaboration with our shared vision to maximise the potential of local government to contribute to the economic and social well-being of its peoples.
That noble goal is what this FORUM should unite around this week. I wish you well in your deliberations and in benchmarking outcomes that will help guide local governments throughout Fiji in order to energise development in your various communities.
Thank you all Daniavaad and vinaka vakalevu