“We don’t want handouts from the Government. The council wants its independence to be able to earn its own revenue. When we offered to do the lottery they took it over, parking meters they took it over.”
These were the sentiments expressed by Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green yesterday at a press conference on the announcement by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh in Monday’s budget presentation that $500M had been allocated for immediate efforts to clean up Georgetown.
Singh said that the Government was planning to undertake a $1B “Clean- up Campaign” in Georgetown and other parts of the country. Of this amount, $500M has been set aside for Georgetown.
Chase-Green went on to say, “In stating in the budget that there is $500M for the city … restoration is amazing, it is a joke. It is just a teardrop in the ocean.”
Chase-Green recalled that in 1996, the then City Engineer had estimated that it would take $1B to do the overall drainage in Georgetown. “The valuation after 18 years would have gone up. To go public and say that you are giving us $500M is just a teardrop in the ocean. What about the cemetery, City Hall, Stabroek Market, Kitty Market and the abattoirs?” Chase-Green questioned.
Chase-Green said that she had several concerns about the allocation of the $500M. “My concern is, is the $500M coming directly to the city council or is it going to be done through the Ministry of Works, Local Government or Environmental Protection Agency?” she questioned.
“Have they spoken with us? If they did I don’t know who they spoke with. It would not have been the duly elected councilors; it would have probably been the Administration, who is visionless.”
The councillors have been at deep odds recently with Town Clerk Carol Sooba who has been interfacing directly with senior government officials.
“I would like them to sit with the Mayor and Councillors to discuss how we are going to spend this money. I don’t want to hear $50M is spent for cleaning up and at the end of the day I don’t see anything visible, I just see a couple of prisoners that they ask to run around the cemetery and $50M gone. We must sit down at a round table and decide how to spend that $500M in the city of Georgetown. This is not an election gimmick for the Government; it must be what the people want…No Minister of Local Government could tell me how he want to spend money for the city,” the deputy mayor argued.
Last February APNU MP Volda Lawrence had moved a motion calling on the government to embark on a massive effort to restore the capital to its long cherished title of the Garden City.
According to Chase-Green, “we have had several meetings…to date we have not been able to mobilize anything to do the implementation of the various committees.”
Mayor Hamilton Green told the press conference that the allocation of the $500M, “sounds good but from our experience with the vast sums spent on the cemetery and other examples, this is clearly an election gimmick or ploy as the run up either to Local Government or as we suspect, National Elections.”
“This $500M will be used for propaganda purposes…There is no suggestion that there is the vital component of sustainability. Where is the sum to maintain its cleanliness over the next month or years? …The Minister pulls out $500M to be spent for the restoration of Georgetown, I smell a rat,” Green said.