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President Irfaan Ali has recently announced that the Central Government will not be releasing money to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council without an assessment that determines how the Council managed the resources previously received. This may be all well and good for accountability but accountability on the part of any Local Government Authority and that of the Central Government cannot be selective.
There are clear laws and guidelines stipulating how the various state entities, including the three tiers of government – Local, Regional and Central-must function. This publication does not support unaccountability on the part of any government agency, including the failure to pay taxes by said agency. It also recognises that accountability is key to good governance which Guyanese deserve.
City Hall is financially constrained from doing some of its work given its tax structure and limited scope in revenue generation. The issue is as old as the concern about successive governments’ failure to facilitate the necessary structure to financially empower the Local Authorities. That being said, City Hall must seek to comply with financial obligations under the law. At the same time the Central Government has its own financial responsibility to the City Council and must honour it.
Rates and taxes for state properties must be timely paid. Payment of these are not advancement but legal obligations. The Central Government also has to be careful of perception that it is not playing petty divisive politics given that the Council is controlled by the Opposition. Guyanese experienced this before. The City was overrun by garbage and bushes, and everything was falling apart because a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government decided it was going to deprive the City of needed funding and the state’s obligations to pay its taxes and maintain the infrastructures controlled by the state.
Georgetown fell into a state of disrepair, earning the sobriquet the ‘Garbage City.’ People lived in or traveled to the City in constant fear of a public health crisis outbreak. The welfare of the City, which is the country’s capital, seats the government, is home to the major wharves and the two international airports, must be put first. The maintenance and upkeep of Georgetown and its outskirts are the responsibility of both Central and City governments.
The Central Government has a larger revenue base than City Hall. Government has the most properties and concomitant rates and taxes obligations than any other business. Government also has responsibility for the maintenance of major roads, drainage and irrigation. The Central Government has to shoulder its responsibility and put national interest first. Another issue of concern is whether the conditions being set for City Hall to presently access funding from government has been the same set for all the towns, including those controlled by the PPP/C.
There should be an across the board standard for all towns and local authorities. The Central Government or President Ali must not lose sight of this given his ‘One Guyana’ focus. In the meantime, City Hall and the Central Government must set aside differences, perceived or real, and fix the deteriorating state of Georgetown which is the priority, not the politics.