The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has submitted its objections to the amended metered parking by-laws to City Hall, according to its President Deodat Indar, who joined with members of the business community yesterday to protest any restart of the initiative in the capital.
Indar was one of about a score of people who took to the Regent Street pavement opposite City Hall at midday yesterday, in what has become a weekly ritual for the Movement against Parking Meters group.
Its cause has extended from mere parking meter advocacy to include general municipal matters, including an allegation of sexual assault on a minor by a city police, and the shooting of a mentally unstable vendor at the Bourda outpost by another member of the city police.
But the recent approval by the City Council of the amended by-laws has sparked renewed passion among the protestors.
“We will fight this contract with all our energies for as long as it takes. We would like to appeal to Minister [Ronald] Bulkan to not sign these by-laws because it’s all cosmetic from the last by-laws that were proven illegal in court…so we at MAPM feel that it’s all smoke and mirrors and these prices will resume their previous heady heights in six months,” MAPM member Don Singh stated yesterday.
Indar said that the GCCI had on Wednesday submitted its list of objections to the council, while noting that problems were found in a significant portion of the by-laws and opining that not much had changed from the original.
“…there were major parts of it that we had problems with because they impinge on property rights, they impinge on some of persons’ constitutional rights, they have economic implications and because they were high in proportion within the by-law, we have rejected the entire by-law,” he said.
The GCCI President recalled the impact that the implementation of parking meters had had on inner-city businesses last year and he concluded that were they to return, business would experience the same level of “downturn.”
“When you have business sentiments saying that this thing is hurting their business then you have to do something. When I became the president of the Chamber, last year I walked these streets…we visited about 70 different businesses on two different occasions and every single one of those businesses said they were affected negatively by the then introduction of the parking meters…,” Indar reported, while relating that some persons had seen their business plummet as much as 70%.
“Our business fell by about 60% and when you go outside on the road and you look up and down the road you don’t see any vehicles parked,” an elderly businessman related yesterday. He expressed concerns that were the parking meters implemented again, businesses would surely fail.
“No matter how you tried—we tried different types of deals—people refused to come. So, clearly, this contract is not going to work. It didn’t work the last time and if they bring it back, they’re gonna kill the city and they’re going to kill all the businesses and we’re already in an economic spiral out of control. The last thing you want to do is to put something else that puts pressure on people too,” a businesswoman, who operates out of Church Street, commented.
The implementation of metered parking sparked protests and boycotts of the system, as citizens rejected the validity of the by-laws, stating, among other things, that consultations were not done.
Yesterday, remigrant George Fraser noted that the Council has failed to seriously consider alternative methods of raising funds for the city, and questioned the financial knowledge of those on the Council.
“The business community has already proposed several different measures that would not involve any economic outlay by the city and they would get an income, in some cases more than if they installed the system. They have not paid attention. This is what gets me, because what I’m seeing here is fiscal irresponsibility and to be crude about it, this is fiscal illiteracy—they don’t know nothing ’bout money,” Fraser criticised.
Protestor Renata Chuck-A-Sang advised that citizens pay attention to local government elections to ensure that those elected to represent them will make better decisions at the level of the Council.
“Citizens of Guyana, we have a right to have a voice and we have a reasonable expectation that the political leaders will listen to us; will pay attention to what our views are and react accordingly. But what we’re seeing now is a really stubborn approach by City Hall to ignore what the citizens are saying and I think they will do that to their detriment,” she stated.