$1B in subventions budgeted for local gov’t bodies

Allocations for subventions for local government authorities have more than doubled in the government’s proposed 2018 budget, going from $401 million last year to $1 billion.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, while presenting the budget on Monday, told the National Assembly that although the return of local government elections are most welcome, simply holding polls does not guarantee an effective local government system. As a result, he said government has been working with Neighbour-hood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and municipalities across the country to improve their capacities for administration and fiscal management.

One measure to improve the functioning of the authorities is the allocation of $1 billion for transfer to NDCs and the 9 municipalities, while a further sum of $200 million is targeted to improve the capital, Georgetown.

The Local Government Commission, which will be working towards supporting and improving the capacities of local government organs and promoting transparency and accountability, has been allocated $110 million in the budget.

In both 2016 and 2017, $401 million was allocated for subventions.

Despite the subventions, local government authorities are expected to finance the majority of their activities through the collection of property rates and taxes. Various authorities, including Georgetown, have complained that these sums are inadequate.

Jordan acknowledged these complaints, while noting that the issue of outdated property values must be addressed.

“Government recognises that NDCs and municipalities must be financially self-sufficient, if they are to deliver and maintain quality public goods and services to their constituents and facilitate socio-economic development across their respective areas. A major impediment to this, for decades, has been the lack of up-to-date valuations of properties all the across the country,” he told the House.

As a result, in 2018 government “will be exploring the possibility of conducting a countrywide valuation exercise to bring all property values up to date, so that NDCs and municipalities are equipped with appropriate revenue streams to deliver their mandate,” he said.

Additional measures directed towards local governance include the second National Regional Development Consultative Committee (NRDCC), which will be held in January 2018 as well as the development of the Plans of Action for Regional Development (PARDs).

The minister stated that the NRDCC of 2017 served as a forum for collaboration and cooperation across the different levels of local government and across the regions. It facilitated information sharing, support and strategic planning between the various authorities. In 2018, the NRDCC will be tasked with the development of a Regional Development Report, which will provide an account of the operations and development trajectory of the local authorities.

Further, the PARD for Region 9 is in its final stage of consultations, and the input of the final 2 of 56 communities in the Region will be incorporated by the end of 2017, after a year of extensive consultative work. The completion of the PARD for Region 9 is scheduled for early 2018 and a costed implementation plan will be developed to support the execution. In addition, consultations have commenced in Region 6, while regional profiles are being developed by other regions as they prepare to develop PARDs.

2018 will also see the hosting of the second local government elections in two years, which will mark the first time that the elections will be held within the constitutionally- stipulated period. The polls are to be held every three years. $2.9 billion has therefore been allocated to support the work of the Guyana Elections Com-mission.

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