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I wish to refer to a letter written by Anu Bihari, published on ( April 27, 2021 in kaieteur news ) The contents constitute a stinging criticism of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown.
Some of the criticisms are justified in face of reality specifically and the expectations of taxpayers and citizens generally.
However, it is necessary for me to record the extenuating if not historic circumstances, which led to a decline in services.
As you will note a little later, most of the problems faced by citizens and the Council are beyond the control of the Georgetown Municipality.
Dear Editor, I plead the following facts:-
First, since the boundaries of the City were expanded to include Agricola on the East Bank of Demerara (in the South) and Cummings Lodge on the East Coast of Demerara, the Council was unable to secure the vital inputs, which could have made a difference for the general good. These are financial resources and an opportunity for the Council to secure the skills of good managers and the ability to provide incentives and where necessary to hire and fire. For some time now, the Council remains encumbered by a Local Government Commission and the Ministry of Local Government which often seem hostile to recommendations made by the Council.
The impasse when the Local Government Commission was not constituted created challenges and even when in place the Commission has treated the just demands of the Municipality rather lightly.
On the question of financial resources, Dear Editor, you will recall that after a frustrated Mayor Compton Young and Councillors resigned they were replaced by an Interim Management Committee (IMC) appointed by the PPP/C Administration.
This IMC received substantial financial and other support from the then PPP/C Government. In spite of this, the Head of the IMC declared that the City needed an inflow of additional funds, well beyond rates and taxes and its traditional revenue earnings.
After the Local Government Elections of 1994, the new Council took seriously the wisdom or rather the reality that the City needed an inflow of fresh and new funds to satisfy the just needs of citizens living in an expanded area and with new persons coming into the City to reside.
To satisfy this just and accepted need, the new Council proposed the operation of a Lottery following the tradition of many Cities around the globe.
In spite of pleadings, the Government refused to grant the City this opportunity.
May we add this fact, in refusing the City the opportunity to operate a Lottery, a high ranking PPP Government Official stated that they were concerned that the religious community, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, et al would be opposed to such a venture.
Of interest, within a few short months, the idea was hijacked and the Lottery was up and running and not a cent for the City. It was then proposed to the Minister that a small portion of the Lottery revenues could be made available to help the City manage its affairs, this too was ignored. At the time of writing, we painfully note that even the modest subvention allocated for the City is yet to be made available. Even the miniscule allowance for the Mayor has been arbitrarily withheld by the Ministry of Local Government.
To deal with a seemingly intractable problem of indiscipline and disregard for good behavior and community consciousness, the City recommended the establishment of a Municipal Court to deal with the large number of cases the Constabulary, Engineering, Health and Environmental Departments manage on a daily basis. The Court has not been established. So as a result, all fines and even environmental taxes go to the Central Government by way of the Consolidated Fund
I will now attempt to address some of the issues raised.
Maintenance and repairs to public roads in the city now come under the purview of the Ministry of Public Works. MM&C’s involvement was discontinued because of the absence of road building equipment.
There are several stray animals roaming the streets of Georgetown and I concede that even one is too many. However again the Central Government wrested control of even stray catching. It has been resituated to the Ministry of Home Affairs that has responsibility for the Disciplined Services.
• The Abattoir has recovered from the “Crane toppling” incident and has resumed the slaughtering, processing and examinations of meat all be it in conditions which cannot be described as ideal but nevertheless meet acceptable standards of hygiene and consumption. At this juncture it would not be feasible to demolish the existing structure that houses the abattoir and replace it with a modern state of the art facility because of the constraints posed by financing. It might be well worth considering that an official approach be made to friendly donor countries ( The Scandinavian countries or Japan for example)to undertake by way of a grant to the people of Georgetown a project to rebuild a modern abattoir in keeping with internationally recognized standards.
• The Luckhoo Municipal pool, while acknowledging its use for exercise and recreation, was flawed ‘ab initio’ in that its location was over the sea wall – a recipe for eventual failure.
• Street lamps and attendant Lamp posts always come under the purview of the electricity corporation-the Guyana Power & Light Inc. (GPL) that is responsible for their proper functioning and replacement.
• Refuse disposable has been a source of concern from time immemorial. The generation of garbage has grown exponentially with the expansion of the city. The incinerator (Old Smokey) outlived its usefulness with the effluxion of time. Unfortunately a replacement was not considered.
• It cannot be denied or defended that Le Repentir cemetery is in a deportable state. If one is to be intellectually honest the cemetery is due for another complete rehabilitation similar to one done a few years ago. The sexton and the staff are overwhelmed by the nature and scope of the maintenance schedule but are giving utmost.
• The municipal markets are all subjected to ongoing repairs -a process which is dependent on the availability of funds.
• To state that Fogging for Mosquitoes has been discontinued is being economical with the truth. Fogging takes place from time to time and so too are repairs of bridges, walkways etc.
• City Hall is a national treasure which requires a National response at the highest governmental level.
• It is heartening to observe how citizens have stepped up and are playing their part in the beautification of the environment and their immediate surroundings. This will be driven by a beautification policy adhering to standards and criteria.
• Flooding of the city is being addressed through a strategic alliance with the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) that has undertaken to clear the outfalls and canals so that the city can be properly drained. We for our part ensure that kokers/sluices are regularly inspected, maintained and of course opened in a timely manner..
• New buildings being erected in the city in violation of building codes are subjected to investigation by the City Engineer’s department and the subsequent reports made available to the council to consider the recommendations contained therein .
We accept that the writer has posed some serious questions all of which should be addressed with some degree of urgency. Against this backdrop I return to the burning issue of Financing to undertake the several remedial actions necessary. Unfortunately, the revenue generated from the collection of Rates and Taxes cannot defray the escalating costs to rectify, remedy, repair or rehabilitate all these challenges.
Additionally, there is the matter of money management which has been lacking in the affairs of the council. There needs to be a concerted effort not only in the timely collection of outstanding rates and taxes but also in the evaluation for rating purposes of the new ‘high rise’ buildings which like the “phoenix are rising from the ashes “all over the city.
Editor for my part, I welcome the intervention of the citizens of Georgetown. As this evidences the partnership which is necessary not only to create and fulfill the mandate of MM & C but also to ensure that collectively Georgetown is transformed and returned to its pristine glory as the Garden City it once was.
We understand the right of Citizens to criticize but in the circumstances as outlined above, it will be better if those persons and agencies work with the Council to set things right. But then that is what constructive criticism allows us to do too, collaborate, cooperate and construct a Glorious Garden City.
Pt. Ubraj Narine J.P, C.O. A
Ambassador for Peace &
City of Georgetown