Guyana: Let’s save our capital city – Georgetown

Let’s save our capital city

MAY 6, 2014 | BY  |  EDITORIAL

The City of Georgetown – Guyana’s more than 200-year-old national capital – is in a state of crisis.

It is a well-known fact that Greater Georgetown’s commercial, demographic and geographical expansion over the past four decades has been the major contributory factor to the present situation.  The population has grown to about 250,000. The boundaries now include the former ‘rural’ plantations of Pattensen, Sophia and Turkeyen on the East Coast and the villages of Houston, McDoom and Agricola on East Bank Demerara.

The city is home to the main commercial port and is now served by its own municipal aerodrome at Ogle. It is the seat of the National Assembly; Supreme Court; Central Bank; Police and Defence Force Headquarters; government ministries and many more institutions. 

The Mayor and City Council – M&CC – must be transformed if it is to be expected to respond to the challenge of managing a modern capital city. This has not happened. Few citizens, if any, think that the city is well-administered. More of them, however, are becoming aware of the causes of the current crisis in the municipality and its consequences for the everyday lives of ordinary citizens.

The political crisis, certainly, is the single most serious problem. There is little doubt that the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration has adopted an antagonistic attitude to the M&CC which it perceives to be controlled by affiliates or supporters of A Partnership for National Unity. This mindset has led to the PPPC’s refusal to solve the problems at hand, since it perceives every situation as an opportunity for political confrontation rather than municipal improvement.

The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development – MLGRD – micro-manages the M&CC on a daily basis in order to maintain control of the city and trample on any traces of independence or initiative. The MLGRD’s contentious imposition of an unpopular Town Clerk against the wishes of the M&CC has aggravated the already adversarial relationship between the two.

The second crisis is that of financial management. It is a well-known fact that the M&CC’s revenue base is inadequate to sustain the management of the expanding population and an enlarged city. The central government has successfully blocked every single M&CC initiative to raise its own revenue by re-evaluating properties, introducing parking meters, launching a lottery and imposing a tax on containerized vehicles traversing the city, for example.

The biggest property owner in Georgetown is the central government, but it has been the biggest delinquent in the payment of its rates and taxes. The M&CC has had to resort to taking legal action to collect outstanding taxes from several taxpayers, but the wheels of justice turn very slowly in present-day Georgetown. There simply is not enough money to run the city efficiently, and it shows.

Flooding is a frequent and recurrent catastrophe. The city is built on a collection of old sugar plantations. It contains hundreds of kilometres of canals and drains designed to store excess water, remove it from the land and discharge it into the Demerara River and Atlantic Ocean. That does not happen efficiently.

Most waterways are clogged with aquatic weeds, builders’ waste, commercial and household refuse, garbage and other debris. Outfalls into the rivers quickly become silted. Aging, manually-operated kokers occasionally collapse. Mechanical pumps malfunction and cannot be kept in good repair. With every shower longer than a couple of hours, parts of the city are inundated.

Infrastructure maintenance is a perennial problem. Georgetown – embellished with the pretty Victorian wooden architecture of City Hall, the Supreme Court, the Cathedral of St George and other edifices – used to boast of being the ‘Garden City’ of the Caribbean. No longer. It is expensive to maintain wooden buildings in this weather, however elegant and eminent.

The M&CC does not have the capability nor does it possess the materials, money, manpower and machines to maintain the buildings, canals, gardens, kokers, markets, roadways and other infrastructure and property for which it is responsible.

The PPPC must demonstrate leadership in this crisis. It must re-engage the M&CC in a responsible manner and bring together the Opposition, trade unions, civil society and other stakeholders to save our capital city.

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  • guyaneseonline  On 05/07/2014 at 6:19 pm

    Town Clerk locks Mayor out of office
    – forces Councillors to hold meeting in compound
    By Zena Henry The meaning of extraordinary was perfectly exhibited yesterday as City Hall’s Mayor and Councillors sat in the blazing afternoon sun to host their extraordinary Statutory meeting… […]

  • Wycliffe Thomas  On 05/07/2014 at 7:04 pm

    It is simply this: The Mayor and his Deputy need replacing at the M&CC.

  • gigi  On 05/08/2014 at 5:34 pm

    Truer words were never spoken Wycliffe Thomas. Fix the problem and not the blame. And the problem is these folks need to be removed from office and public life. They are not fit to govern.

  • Romona Greene Bacchus  On 05/10/2014 at 4:37 pm

    I agree with this article. I just came back from holiday in Guyana and its like I’m now having disturbed sleep because I’ve never seen a capital country look and smell like my country.
    Please fix the problem and not the blame as one response said, and also everyone in the present government need to be turfed out and enthused, caring people need to replace those now in power. They made me cry and now I can’t sleep.

  • Deen  On 05/11/2014 at 12:06 pm

    The state of deterioration and decay in Georgetown has been a gradual process over the decades, especially after Guyana’s independence when the British left….and not only Georgetown, but the entire country. It clearly indicates that Guyanese politicians and leaders do not have the ability and capability to run or manage the country. All the industries that have been nationalized have been mismanaged, notably the sugar and bauxite industries. It’s obvious that irreparable damage has been done. It may be a crude metaphor, but Guyana has been politically raped. As we all know, back in the 50s and early 60s, Guyana’s politics was manipulated by the British and American government causing corruption to the political system and eventually initiated the rampant riots, lootings and rapes in Georgetown and elsewhere. Since then, Georgetown and Guyana have gradually deteriorated from being raped to becoming prostituted. Georgetown and Guyana continue to wallow in a virtual cesspool of nauseating stench based on corruption, drugs, distrust and total mismanagement. I guess it all karmic. What a mess!

  • guyaneseonline  On 05/12/2014 at 2:30 am

    PPP’s call for City Council’s removal faces stumbling blocks
    Sunday, 11 May 2014 – Demerara Waves

    The Peoples Progressive Party’s (PPP) call for Georgetown’s councillors to be booted out and replaced with an Interim Management Committee (IMC) appear to be hot air because there is a pending court case against the establishment of an un-elected body to run the city’s affairs.

    Opposition politicians in and out of City Hall on Sunday also said even if the legal green-light was given, the Local Government Minister first has to hold an enquiry to determine if there is enough reason for an IMC to be established.

    Twenty years on since the last Local Government Election was held, A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU), Ronald Bulkan said instead of politicking the PPP-Civic led administration should call the polls on or before August 1, 2014 in keeping with an opposition-approved legislation. “There is a mechanism if you want to get rid of the Mayor. The mechanism is called elections. Any other thing is a backdoor manoeuvre. We are dealing with a pack of gangsters here,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.


  • guyaneseonline  On 05/13/2014 at 4:42 am

    Chaos at City Hall…Mayor can’t authorize commercial banks to recognize King’s signature
    MAY 13, 2014 | FILED UNDER NEWS
    A crisis looms over the operations of City Hall. The battle continues as to who is in control of the finances. Mayor Hamilton Green has no authority to inform local banks about whose signatures should be on cheques coming from City Hall. Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker at a press conference, […]

    Local Government Commission Act non-operational

    MAY 13, 2014 | FILED UNDER NEWS
    The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development is yet to issue the commencement order for the establishment of the Local Government Commission. This is inhibiting Leader of the Opposition from providing names of nominees to sit on the Commission, according to Ronald Bulkan, Shadow Local Government Minister and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s […]

  • francis jackson  On 05/13/2014 at 3:45 pm

    Seems like a showdown to me where, who has more mussle will be in the driver’s seat. I will stay tuned, No further comment.

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