New Amsterdam: A proud town punished by primitive government policies

Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change to submit a weekly column on local government and related matters. The PPP/C has declined the offer. Only APNU has submitted a column this week.

New Amsterdam is a historic, honourable and proud community long regarded as the ‘capital’ of the ancient county – Berbice. The town was established as a Municipality one hundred and twenty three years ago in 1891. It is, next to Georgetown, Guyana’s oldest municipality.

20140508APNUThe Town’s seven constituencies, however, are all experiencing similar problems. The Town has grown but, particularly over the past twenty-two years, there has been visible physical degeneration. This is due to marginalization and political interference from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration; a meagre and untimely annual subvention of ten million dollars ($10,000,000) given by the Central Government; Ministerial Orders that are not in keeping with the Municipal and District Council Act Chapter 28:01 and limited resources.

The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development (MLGRD) continues to interfere unjustifiably and oppressively into the administrative affairs of the Council, making it difficult for staff to understand who are the policy and decision makers and to whom they are accountable. There have been no increases in rates and taxes over the years as the President has not assented to the increase in Rates and Taxes as was recommended twelve years ago while the Urban Development Programme was being executed.

Poverty and unemployment in the Town have created an army of beggars, drug addicts, destitute people, street children, commercial sex workers and young criminal offenders. Jobs are not available and there seems to be no will or plans to create any. Our teachers, nurses, university graduates and other talented persons are migrating from New Amsterdam in their numbers.

The Town Council’s principal objectives, notwithstanding these setbacks, are to continue to serve the people of New Amsterdam and to ensure that the town continues to be safe and healthy so that we can attract investors and visitors. The Council, conscious of the need to strengthen the economic and commercial base, is also committed to a programme that will encourage, stimulate and facilitate the setting up of industries and other large and small businesses; re-establish private and public consultation committees; encourage voluntary and collective actions for providing community level goods and services and mobilize and involve the diaspora for support to community projects and, to the extent that resources are available, seek assistance to rehabilitate or rebuild bridges, roads and drains. To foster growth, the Council will:

–              Seek assistance from the donor community independent of the Central Government for developmental purposes;

–              Support residents to achieve their goals as citizens of the township consistent with the municipal priorities and budgetary allocations;

–              Involve citizens in the decision-making process with particular emphasis on those areas of decision making that directly affect their well-being and make changes from the old processes and make technology and innovation a central part of managing the Town’s affairs;

–              Align the annual budget with the Town’s development priorities and ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent where there will be the greatest impact on people’s well-being;

–              Enforce the law with respect to Public Health, illegal vending, illegal construction, illegal dumping of garbage and against expired goods and maintain healthy Municipal market.

The Council will also continue to support sports, youth and educational activities through a programme to:

–              Upgrade all parks, play fields and hard courts;

–              Encourage incentives to valuable and outstanding players;

–              Continue to promote the observance of ‘town day’ and community days as a recreational, educational and income-generating events;

–              Encourage communities to mobilize their resources to nurture our youths;

–              Involve youths in the decision making process by inviting youths to serve on ‘ad hoc’ committees of the Council;

–              Continue to provide an Annual Subvention to the New Amsterdam National Library;

–              Continue visits to schools and other organizations to sensitize on Public Health and other related matters;

–              Continue public outreach in wards on Public Health and other related matters.

A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) pledge to the townsfolk of New Amsterdam is to hold central government’s feet to the fire to ensure that the council elected at the upcoming local government elections is allowed to function with the authority and autonomy guaranteed it under the constitution.

New Amsterdam cannot be managed from a Ministry located in Georgetown. The laws provide that councils –local democratic organs – are empowered to administer local affairs within a constitutional framework of devolution; this must be allowed to happen.

The PPP/C’s desire to micro-manage municipalities has led to dysfunction within the local government system. Inefficiency and corruption are the sad result of this misguided policy.

APNU calls once more on the PPP/C to respect our laws and our people. APNU’s promise to the residents of New Amsterdam is to work toward this proud town regaining its former glory. Let’s have local government elections so that the residents of New Amsterdam could elect managers with a fresh mandate to reverse the neglect to which their community has suffered at the hands of the PPP/C.