Does local government have capacity for enabling local economic development? Lessons from Jamaica

Eris D Schoburgh


Implementation of the Caribbean Local Economic Development Project (CARILED)1began in 2012 in seven countries for a duration of six years, to support sustainable economic growth in the region. CARILED has introduced the idea of local economic development (LED) to the ‘development’ debate in the region but has also brought the organisational capacity of local government, and local government’s role as ‘facilitator’ of LED,to the fore. This paper assesses organizational behaviour and capability in local government in Jamaica to determine the state of readiness for a developmental role. The paper draws on two sets of research data to aid its analysis–a capacity audit (CAPAUD) conducted in 2010 and an organisational analysis (OA)commissioned by the Ministry of Local Government in 2010, both of which targeted a sample of local authorities in Jamaica.

The study found that when assessed against established criteria for an LED organisation, ie: research and information provision; marketing and coordination; learning and innovation; and leadership - local government’s institutional and organisational capacity for development is unevenly distributed. For instance, local leaders understood organisational purpose but efforts to give effect to this appeared undeveloped, sporadic and uni-directional. It was also evident that participatory strategies are used to gain information from communities but these were often devoid of systematic research methodologies rendering formal community impact on local planning negligent. Finally there is strong potential for the kind of administrative leadership required by a developmental local government to evolve,indicated by the quality of training, quantum of managerial/supervisory staff, and stability of staff establishment. However, this potential is threatened by the deficiencies in the non-traditional functional areas that are strategic to the organisation’s effectiveness as a ‘facilitator’ of LED, ie:alignment of community engagement/interface with LED priorities, diffusion of information technology in organisational processes, and utilisation of policy analysis and development. These findings contribute important policy relevant information to the discourses in the region about the construction of alternative solutions to institutional and organisational problems in response to the economic crises of small island developing states (SIDS).

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