City does not have enough revenue to meet its commitments

Dear Editor,

I note with interest the contents of Guyana Times, April 30 editorial headlined ‘Solving M&CC’s problems permanently.’

First, the editorial states that central government gave the council an advance payment for this year’s rates and taxes. Grateful as we are, and as always acknowledging the cooperation and understanding we receive from the Minister and Ministry of Finance, the $40M represents taxes due and payable under the act since February of this year. This therefore is the first flaw in the editorial.

Second, editorials in other media have from time to time alluded to the obligation of a central government to assist the municipal authorities of the capital in their task to maintain the integrity of the city.

Third, came the coup de grace – the editorial stressed the need for an IMC and is critical of the political environment for delaying local government elections, which I have said before are long overdue.

However, the editorial fails to recognize that the delay is clear for all to see. It is due to the reluctance by the party in office to agree to the vital ingredients for local government reform in keeping with the pattern in the rest of the democratic world; basically it is to give the main local authority more scope to raise funds and to function with some degree of autonomy.

Local government reform is a vital ingredient in the political cake if we are to achieve Guyana’s only saviour, that is of shared governance. That is if we believe in justice and desire peace.

Next the editorial missed this point made so often, which is this: the last IMC for Georgetown consisting of persons handpicked by this government, determined that the only way to provide the services citizens are entitled to and deserve in Georgetown was for the Georgetown City Council to be able to broaden its revenue base, in other words as union leader, Mr Andrew Garnett said recently, “that we need new processes to increase revenue generation urgently.”

That was a responsible union speaking.

The editorial needs to be reminded that the government-appointed IMC made the statement at a time, when for reasons which are not obscure, central government pump-ed millions of dollars into the city since it was expecting a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. It is instructive to remind the author of the editorial that, without exception, every proposal made by this Mayor and Councillors to earn additional revenue was refused by central government. Rather, the car park which we operated for over seventeen years, and which earned us money was without notice seized by a state official.

I have acknowledged weaknesses in the administration of the city which can only be remedied by a complete overhaul of rules and procedures, and the untying of the Mayor and Councillors hands who are blamed for every problem in the city.

The bottom line is, even with the best will in the world, without sufficient money the city cannot maintain: 15,325 sq miles of land with 160 miles of roads; an abattoir; scores of bridges; a cemetery; over 300 miles of concrete and earthen drains; 8 outfall channels to the Demerara River plus pumps; collection and disposal of waste and garbage; parapets; street lighting; public parks and open spaces; public sanitary conveniences; sluices and tunnels; five municipal markets; food hygiene; policing and security of certain areas in the city; maternal and child health; day-care centres; the building code; road repair and maintenance; control of stray animals; and other municipal structures.

The criticism in the editorial that the actions of politicians are signalling a clear indication to delay the polls is myopic, and ignores the above and other related factors. Only a few days ago, I had cause to write the Minister of Local Government and give him an example of how the failure of the valuation division to have properties in Georgetown revalued as required by law is further preventing the council from bringing in millions of dollars. It is where a private person had a property within the city boundaries transferred from government to him, had the valuation department do a valuation, and consummated the transaction, but the relevant government agency failed to pay off their tax indebtedness to the city, so as to secure the necessary compliance certificate that is a legal requirement before properties are transferred from one party to another.

We appeal to the sense of fair play and justice by citizens and to all sections of the media. We will not accuse anyone of a breach of faith, but here is another example: Last year with much fanfare, an enhancement project was announced, and an MOU was signed by the Town Clerk and the Minister. That MOU required the transferral of $120M over twelve-month period for enhancement. After the first two disbursements of 2x$10M, with neither notice, nor reason the disbursements ceased. To ensure the rhythm of the programme was not compromised we laid out $10M for the project.

Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Green
Mayor

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