City Hall has to cease exhibiting this lack of managerial panache and robustness

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the article captioned, `Solid Waste Director says city garbage collectors overstretched – warns council of ‘alarming’ situation at Stabroek Market’ (SN April 24).  Alarming is an understatement.  I share my thinking.

That article was as blunt, as it was refreshingly-and unprecedentedly-honest.  It confirmed some fears and raised some questions.  The capital and its residents are looking at some troubles.  The picture painted was one heavy on distress, yet altogether realistic.  There was no exaggeration, especially as the situation relates to the marketplace.  The venerable Stabroek Market is that mostly open-air corner for a particular type of food supply: fresh, unpackaged, exposed, vulnerable.  And quickly perishable, too.  If this is a site where there is stress and shortfall re refuse removal, then that speaks for itself as to health and confidence for those buying, passing through, and ultimately consuming those products.  All of this expose people around and about the marketplace to the unknown and the long-term. The ominous surfaces.

I acknowledge that City Hall has its problems, many of them, and very limited resources.  Though intentions are good, I detect either limited consensus or failure to face reality, which will leave in the same old place.  Part of the reality, is that when vehicles operate almost round-the-clock and under heavy loads, something has to give.  Ergo, trucks in the repair bay.  Things pile up.  The images are there; the smells, too.  Don’t forget the fears.

Another reality is that taxes have to be collected; a real hard line has to be drawn with defaulters.  The business of the capital will not get done on barefooted, bare bottomed, and the continuous barefaced disdain of tax cheats.  Rates have to be more realistic; yes, I know the mere utterance is a real capital offence.  What was unreal was reading that contractors (small) should be pressed to deliver more.  I would agree with that position; and am always an advocate for leaders, contractors, and workers to give more.  But it was pointed out that contractors are paid on “volume of waste generated.”  Though some clarity is needed, that sounds both sensible and progressive.  That is the positive.  The negative is that those operating margins have to be thin, which is not conducive to the well-meaning calls of some councilors for contractors to give more.

It is not realistic; there should not be much to give, if the negotiators at City Hall drove a hard, but fair, bargain during negotiation.  There is a big if on that.  The best that the little guys might be able to offer would be to work for breakeven to keep the garbage moving out of the face, earn much goodwill, and be priority candidates for a sliver of the waste disposal pie in the future.  While I am at this point, it would be helpful if citizens and ratepayers know more of who these helpful servants are; all of them.  I want to know: the principals, their origins and their history.  Think it is part of that brave new Guyanese world of transparency and all the rest.  Let there not be another hidden scandal waiting for later ventilating.

Moreover, I discern that the small guys by themselves are struggling.  They cannot handle the bulk of this business.  They need more trucks, more people, more capital.  Of necessity, the sensitive waste collection and removal process has to include Puran Bros. and Cevons; they have to be a big part of the disposal mix.  They already have the resources, knowhow and strength and depth.  Otherwise City Hall is fooling itself and citizens.  Further, I think that City Hall is seriously mishandling those two relationships.  For when I learn of this matter of “verbal contract” I am taken aback; that may have been convenient to get matters quickly back on track.  Good.  But the terms and conditions of that “verbal contract” had to be memorialized in a binding document almost immediately.  It sounds as though that was not done; hence, both impasse and reaching for counsel to tell what is desired to be heard.  City Hall is too poor to be so sloppy.  If the intention is to break the back of the two contracted parties, or bring them to heel, I believe that is a losing battle and will be detrimental to this city.  I suggest the route of negotiations; those have to be dispassionate and bloodless, but hard knuckled.  The key is good faith.

As a quick aside, the rains came after several long, bone-dry months.  After one dousing, the floodwaters rose.  The excuse: malfunctioning pumps.  What was checked and prepped during all those months of heat?  Indeed, City Hall is a world all by itself, moving to its own rhythms, and its own timetable.  All are known only to those wise ones over there, who don’t know what they don’t know.

Undoubtedly, local time, minds, and events are poised on the edge of greeting the 20th century (yes, the 20th century; and at least parts of the country are).  City Hall, therefore, has to cease exhibiting this lack urgency; this lack of managerial panache and robustness, and this business as usual way of doing things; that will only take the city even more below sea level.  The people and country deserve and want better.  I do.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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