Despite an apparently promising start, the decentralization of property tax in Jamaica has never really progressed, nor yet been abandoned. Why is this? This paper adopts a discourse theory perspective to answer these questions. It primarily takes cues from a case study of the Portmore Municipality Council, which was tasked by Jamaica's central government to implement fiscal decentralization. The initiative was intended to pave the way for further local government reforms in the country in line with new public management (NPM) principles, but something different happened. We conclude that several influential signifiers and signifieds were linked with fiscal decentralization. Mobilized in various politically motivated and overlapping discourses, these served different interests and attracted shifting groups of supporters and contenders, and gradually halted fiscal decentralization. The signifiers and signifieds pertained to NPM, participation, local and central government commitment, entrenchment,1 This is the process of legally embedding local government into Jamaica's constitution. Thereby, it is intended that local government becomes a permanent and protected feature within the Jamaican political landscape. councilors’ lack of skills, nepotism, corruption, and the need for a “fix” for decentralization to progress. They were part of a larger palette of discourses relating to central government power, globalization, and societal and economic progress. The discourses in question made it impossible to abandon fiscal decentralization entirely, because they continued to be in line with the Jamaican political elite's professed take on NPM, and helped to attract IMF funding.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
- Fiscal decentralization
- Nodal Points
- Property tax in Jamaica