The Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown are at the final stage of deliberating on what should be the scope and substance of the city’s budget. A budget presentation brings with it optimism and expectancy on the part of the citizenry that the council would fulfil its statutory obligations to the city. Likewise, the council projects that ratepayers would honour their civic obligations to the municipality so that their hopes and expectations can be realized.
Budgetary procedure requires that the municipality consult with communities when setting its priorities, developing its plans and allocating resources. In honouring this requirement the council was engaged in community consultations over a two-month period in the City of Georgetown.
These dual purpose consultations presented the opportunities for the residents to advance the interest of the various communities and to allow the council to have an understanding of the felt needs of the communities. It is anticipated that the felt needs articulated by residents would help to inform and shape the council’s 2017 budget.
An analysis of the needs of the communities revealed that the desilting and cleaning of drains and canals is a number one priority, followed by the need for street lights and the provision of environmental health services.
The 2016 community consultations, re-emphasized the need for drainage works to be done in several communities and the importance of a continuous cycle of maintenance. Further, all citizens must practise good environmental health habits, so that the city’s waterways and canals would be litter free. In summation, drainage works are imperative to the integrity and health of the city.
Although the main interest expressed during the community outreaches was the need to maintain the integrity of the drainage system, the importance of the other core services cannot be de-emphasized. At the consultations the need for and importance of street lights were widely vocalized, not only to provide illumination for residents but as a security mechanism. It therefore becomes necessary that the Georgetown City Council and the Guyana Power and Light come to a definite compromise and address the issue of street lighting in the city for the common good.
The third area of priority was the need to urgently address environmental health concerns. This points to the fact that the council must have the requisite human resources to provide environmental health services to the people of the city. Over the years, there has been a manpower shortage in this area. The deficits resulted in some residents violating the environmental health laws with impunity, much to the concern of others. Currently the council is working to address this; hence, in 2017 the provision of environmental health services would be increased.
All in all, city dwellers have clearly articulated their needs, and those needs would be translated into budgetary allocations for 2017.
In 2016, the council focused on the cleaning and desilting of drains, the rehabilitation of municipal buildings, the restoration of play areas and the training of staff. Also, for the period 2015-16, the council had embarked on a relentless cleaning drive in several communities across the city. The municipality utilized the community stakeholder model, which provided an opportunity for residents of local communities to be employed, simultaneously evoking a sense of pride and commitment to the local communities.
The fact remains that it would take the municipality approximately $3 billion annually to provide the core services needed. The truth is that the rates collected are inadequate to meet the demands of a city that is moving towards urban renewal. Hence, it is urgent that the council finds other revenue earning avenues to sustain its services and remain economically viable.
The challenge the council faces time and again, is that every time the Georgetown municipality seeks to employ a new revenue earning venture there is widespread criticism.
The time has come that we all must all confront the realities before us; general rates can no longer suffice in light of the fact that the council has not increased property rates for over twenty years.
Public Relations Officer