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Pandit Ubraj Narine, Mayor of the Georgetown City Council, on Tuesday appearing in an interview in the Mark Benschop “Straight Up” show made some disturbing revelations. He has outlined the financial state of the council and it is disturbing if we accept Georgetown is falling back into disrepair.
It cannot be overemphasised any effort or action to erode the pristine environment of the town, once proudly known as the Garden City, is not good. It is not good when the maintenance and development, in any one of Guyana’s town, neighbourhood and regional council, is being hindered from lack of funding.
The City Council is funded by rates and taxes and subventions from the Central Government. It is open secret that the Council has not been able to do rates and taxes review for years, there are delinquent payers and the growth of the city has outstripped its revenue intake. This is where the subvention is important to help the city to at least aid its environmental and other maintenance work.
Pandit Ubraj in that Benschop’s interview said that last year the $20 million budgeted for the Council, in the National Budget, was not given to the Council. The Mayor also said the 2021 subvention has not yet been released to the Council. This is so unfortunate. The minister responsible for Local Government should enquire why the 2020 was not received, and the 2021 allocation is still being withheld. The coalition Opposition must too enquire and pursue this matter at the national level.
The City Council is managed by the opposition, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change coalition. It hurts Guyana and Guyanese when politics is taken to the low level of depriving others because they exercise their right to associate with a political party or not to associate. The fact is being ignored that regardless of the politics of individual Guyanese that still have to pay taxes and those taxes are used to fund activities of the state, its institutions, and pay the politicians and public workers.
Guyana begs have to rise up from its knees to a more mature and responsible outlook to likes. As is, it is infantile and disgusting to say the least. Whether walking or driving through Georgetown the place is a mess. Grasses are overgrown. The Le Repentir Cemetery looks not like the final resting place of departed loved ones but an unused place and dumping site. Garbage is being thrown all over the place as if people do not care or cannot be bothered.
Any self-respecting nation and leaders would not allow the City to fall into disrepair. The City Council by its restricted and narrow revenue base cannot do it alone. The Council requires the support of the Central Government. The Central Government must rise to the occasion and its principals must act in manner befitting the public offices they occupy and in keeping with expectation of their roles.
The partisan politics should be left for debates at the relevant fora, not used to hinder the maintenance and development of the City, where if left unattended could pose public health crises for all. Better can and must be done by the politicians. It is sickening that these basic issues are always marred by petty political partisanship.
City Council’s failure is not a shame of Council leaders or the coalition; it is the shame of the Central Government that is withholding subvention and restricting the Council from determining its financial management. Politicians should know it is not acceptable to use the people’s power to deprive the people.