Govt to provide $120M to city

The cash-strapped city yesterday sealed a $120 million deal with the government to assist with some of its works.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh (right) and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams shake hands on the computer deal.
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh (right) and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams shake hands on the computer deal.

The cash will be disbursed at the rate of $10 million a month, providing that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) satisfies all the conditions that are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed yesterday.

Minister of Local Government Kellawan Lall and Acting Town Clerk Yonette Pluck-Cort signed the document during a simple ceremony at City Hall attended by, among others, President Bharrat Jagdeo, Transport Minister Robeson Benn, Finance Minister Ashni Singh, Mayor Hamilton Green and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams.

Yesterday government also provided the council with five complete computer systems for its information technology department, and two vehicles will be given to boost the operations of the City Constabulary.

Two contracts totalling $39.7 million have also been awarded for rehabilitation work on the Liliendaal and Kitty pumps to increase their capacity to deal with the city’s drainage problems. The government is also funding this.

According to the MoU, the government is desirous of further supporting the council in improving the quality of life of the citizens of Georgetown, the city’s aesthetic standards, as well as delivering its support through means that promote labour-intensive activities.

The terms of the agreement specifically said that the government’s financial support will be disbursed on a monthly basis on the condition that the council, to the satisfaction of the government, implements a work programme and achieves indicators for the preceding months as agreed to between the parties.

The council has undertaken to implement the monthly work programme which concentrates on improving the aesthetics of the city and will include but not be limited to landscaping, cleaning drains, cutting grass, beautification, collection and disposal of garbage.

For the purpose of implementing the programme and achieving the indicators, the council will provide a core staff with a supervisory head.

As part of the agreement, the council has to maintain a record of all expenses and make them available for auditing purposes. A separate account will be set up for the funds to be provided by government.

Mayor Green, while expressing gratitude for the money provided by the government to assist the municipality with its work, pointed out that $20 million a month is spent by the city to maintain the miles of alleyways and drains.

He also stated that City Hall, which is a heritage site, is falling to pieces and is in dire need of repair.

Global crisis

President Jagdeo yesterday linked the decision to give financial assistance to the city, to the current global crisis.

Jagdeo pointed out that the situation is worse as the world is now more globalized and problems in one country can be imported into another.

“We all recognize that at some point or the other we will start importing some of these problems,” he said adding that it was expected that there would have been a delayed reaction in the real sectors of our economy – bauxite, sugar, gold and other exports mainly.

More importantly, he added “we thought we were relatively insulated in the Caribbean” but Clico (Guyana) demonstrated that this was not so adding that the Stanford Group debacle was another issue.

Jagdeo told the gathering that government had decided that the first step to insulating the economy would be to work in collaboration with the financial sector, to strengthen it. Steps, he said, have also been taken to cocoon the country’s over US$300 million in reserves. “We have shifted out our reserves into safe instruments, earning less returns, but at least they are safe.”

He said too that in spite of the likely impact of the global crisis on revenue, the plan was to have a bigger budget than last year with the hope of spending it in a more labour-intensive fashion.

“I gave that introduction because I wanted to link what we are doing here to all of this,” the President said. “We have decided that you will get $10 million per month for the next year…”

According to Jagdeo, he was recently told that the capital budget of the council was $260 million, therefore this money it would receive would be a boost.

He expressed hope that the agreement would be a collaborative venture that would be successful. “I hope you use it [the money] in a way that is labour intensive.”

He urged the council to include all the areas of the city pointing out that focus should not be on the large canals, which is a separate focus.

He noted that this was a major injection of funds into the city and a substantial amount of money. He said $163 million has been budgeted for roads in the city for maintenance and other works, of which $130 million is for Georgetown. In addition, he said two contracts have been issued, one for $76 million for the Liliendaal pump and $63.7 million for the Kitty pump to increase drainage capacity.

Work together

PNCR councillor Oscar Clarke said that he supports the point made that the city and central government need to work together in a labour-intensive manner.

He said that the money injected into the city was better late than never as over the years its condition had deteriorated because central government was not giving enough support.

Clarke made the point that the council could not maintain the city on taxes alone and required the cooperation and support of central government and the people.

“I hope this will be an ongoing trend of whichever government is in office,” he said stressing that government also needed to support the continuing improvement and further development of other towns.

Meanwhile another councillor, Llewellyn John, also expressed satisfaction and appreciation with the government’s decision to give money to the city to help with capital works.

Many of the points made during yesterday’s ceremony were met with loud applause by councillors and members of the public.

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