City operating with $2B annual deficit

The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is pressing its case for the introduction of new revenue earning measures arguing that its is currently operating at a deficit of more than $2 billion, while its collectable amount currently rests at only $1.6 billion a year.

The council made public its fact sheet on the state of its financial affairs yesterday, stating that it needed more than $3.5 billion a year to provide a satisfactory service to citizens. However, from rates and taxes it currently collects only $1.3 billion and $300 million from other revenue sources including market fees, building fees, processing, abattoir, gardens and cemetery.

The council has been pushing its case for some time now but the government has been adamant in maintaining that the council should focus more on the management of its resources.

Among other things, the council is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of several streets, an abattoir, two cemeteries, bridges, drains, public sanitary conveniences, five markets and municipal day-care centres. It is also in charge of the canals and other outfall channels leading to the Demerara River.

An argument put forward by Mayor Hamilton Green in a letter to this newspaper in this regard had stated that even if the council collected all of its rates to the maximum, it still could not satisfy its mandate.

In the letter, Greene said that consistent with a statement made by the PPP/C appointed IMC back in 1995, a City lotto, which could earn as much as $30 million annually, a fee for parapets and signboards around the city and parking fees were among proposed new revenue earning measures.

The council had accused the central government of frustrating these proposals none of which have been agreed to.

The Mayor also pointed too to a plan for Greater Georgetown which was prepared, reviewed and accepted by the Cabinet.

“However, instead of proceeding to implement the proposal for orderly development of the city, we are faced with ad hoc works, with contracts for works in the city awarded with little, or no involvement by the Mayor and City Council,” he had contended.

On more than one occasion, the government has had to bail out the cash-strapped council, which only earlier this month could not pay its striking workers and garbage contractors who had withdrawn their services, resulting in a garbage disaster in the city.

President Bharrat Jagdeo averted the situation and agreed to allocate $184 million to the council to clear its expenses. The crisis started to unfold earlier this month when the union representing the workers, the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), threatened strike action over the workers not being paid for the month of October. Then the $643 million-indebted council announced that the garbage contractors had halted their operations and advised city residents not to put out their garbage for collection, as it would not be cleared.

Prior to this decision from government, workers had vowed not to start work until their monies were in their hands.

Back in July, government had released $15 million to the council, adding to $40 million given a month before, the Guyana Information Agency (GINA) had reported.

The decision to give further relief came after President Jagdeo met top officials of the municipal entity and the funds freed up was supposed to have been utilized to continue the ongoing enhancement exercise which was initiated by government to transform the aesthetics of Georgetown.

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