Private sector calls on City Council to re-examine parking meter project

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has urged the Mayor and City Councillors to re-examine the feasibility and impact of implementing parking meters in Georgetown.

“It is our view, that other and more efficient methods of generating revenues can be considered for the improvement of the financial affairs of the city. We are willing to meet to discuss these options,” PSC Chairman Edward Boyer wrote in a letter, dated November 24, to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green.

The controversial parking meter deal, signed between the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and Smart City Solutions (SCS), is intended to generate much needed revenue for the city. The meters are expected to be installed in the central business hub of the town before the year ends.

However, Boyer, in the letter, which was released by the PSC, noted that members of the business community are extremely concerned as to the impact this will have on businesses operated within the city, in particular on their employees and customers.

In the case of employees, he noted, a person driving to work from Monday to Friday will have to park for 8 hours at a minimum for 5 days per week and at the current intended rate of $200 per hour, will have to pay at minimum $1,600 per day or $8,000 per week. “This will be an additional monthly (4 weeks) cost of $32,000 resulting in severe hardships for the person and their family,” he pointed out.

Boyer said too that the business model is deeply flawed as only $20 from every $100 taken would be received by the M&CC as an indirect tax from citizens for the benefit of the city, while the remaining $80 will go towards administration and wealth creation of the investors. “This is a highly inefficient way of tax collection and utilization. It would have been more acceptable had the City received $80 and the administrator of the parking meters get $20,” he said. He noted that from public information, parking meters will be operational from 7am to 7pm (excluding Sundays) and 4,000 parking spaces will be made available. “Assuming a worst case of 25% occupancy. This will generate for the company an annual revenue of $750M with the M&CC only receiving $150M. If 50% occupancy is achieved this will be an annual revenue of $1.5B with the city receiving only $300M,” he added.

“The business community does not view the parking meters as a value added service to the members of the public. Parking meters are an indirect method of taxation without any value creation for the users,” he further said, while adding that there are no guarantees that parking meters will increase security, public safety and the efficiency in doing business within the capital.

However, in previous news reports Mayor Chase-Green had shared a different opinion on the income they would be receiving from the project. She had said that the M&CC is not investing a dime into the project but would be receiving 20% of the gross income generated.

The PSC is not the only group to have called on the M&CC to rethink the deal. The Transparency Institute of Guyana and Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan have been very critical of the deal and believe that it should be scrapped in light of procurement regulations not being followed.  Members of the public have also criticized it.

Controversy has raged around the deal for months because of the secrecy surrounding it, the fact that it was not publicly tendered and the likely cost to citizens.

A Ministry of Finance review severely criticized the initial contract saying that government procurement rules may have been transgressed, while a review by the Attorney General’s Chambers also pointed out that the terms highly favour the contractor.

The reviews, however, did not find the contract to be illegal and the central government recommended only that the city renegotiate the contract after seeking the advice of an accountant.

In October, a majority of city councillors voted to approve amendments to the contract, which would see a lower toll, among other things.

The amendments, which were presented to the full council on August 31, included the reduction of the parking tariff to $50 per 15 minutes from the originally proposed “up to $125” per 15-minute interval, as well as the reduction of the length of the contract to 20 years from 49 years.

Seventeen of the 21 councillors present voted in favour of the motion, while the two People’s Progressive Party/Civic Councillors, Khame Sharma and Bishram Kuppen, voted against and councillors Andrea Marks and Lionel Jaikarran along with Deputy Mayor Duncan abstained.

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