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Catholic Social Justice and Local Government Reform

By Darrion Narine

Programme Manager, AMMR


Local government elections  has been dominating the news for the last few months with massive campaigns around the country and many candidates making promises that they won’t be able to keep. But why?

The simple answer is that the approvals for any form of works at community lies with the central government. It is for this reason that in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, a land rich in cultural diversity and history, the call for local government reform echoes from the shores to the hills. There needs to be a move towards the decentralisation of decision-making for us to become a more socially just and responsible society. Decisions that should take weeks, sometimes take years because of our current structures. As the twin-island republic grapples with issues of governance, economic inequality, and social justice, the Catholic social justice perspective offers a profound insight into the importance of local government reform as a means to foster solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good.

Solidarity lies at the heart of Catholic social justice teachings, promoting the interconnectedness of all humanity and encouraging individuals to recognise their shared responsibility for the well-being of their fellow citizens. Local government reform becomes a channel through which this solidarity can be actively expressed. By empowering local communities to take charge of their own development, the reform encourages citizens to extend a helping hand to those in need, creating a web of mutual support that transcends socioeconomic boundaries.

In T&T, local government reform can strengthen the bonds of solidarity by enabling communities to identify and address the unique challenges faced by their members. Through participatory decision-making processes, residents can collaborate to develop targeted initiatives such as poverty alleviation programmes, educational support for underserved youth, and healthcare initiatives for vulnerable populations. Through the encouragement of active engagement and cooperation, local government reform aligns with the Catholic principle of solidarity, promoting a society where the well-being of all is a collective concern.

The principle of subsidiarity is another cornerstone of Catholic social justice teachings and emphasises the importance of decision-making authority resting at the most local and immediate level possible. Nationally, local government reform can empower communities to address their specific needs and concerns with autonomy and efficiency. This decentralisation of power allows for a more nuanced response to challenges, as local leaders and residents possess an intimate understanding of the unique dynamics at play within their neighbourhoods.

Furthermore, local government reform encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility among citizens for the improvement of their own communities. By participating in decision-making processes and contributing to local initiatives, individuals develop a deeper connection to their neighbourhoods, fostering a culture of active citizenship. As communities thrive and the common good is prioritised, the reform aligns with the Catholic belief in the inherent dignity of every person and the obligation to create a just and inclusive society.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the winds of change carry with them the promise of a more just and compassionate society. Local government reform, viewed through the lens of Catholic social justice teachings, emerges as a crucial pathway toward achieving this vision. By fostering solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good, the reform empowers communities to take charge of their own destinies, nurturing a sense of belonging and responsibility among citizens. Local government reform is needed to improve our society and our country. May God continue to bless our country.

Photo by Element5 Digital