Letter: If it is not race, then it is politics

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Dear Editor,

The observation of former PNC Prime Minister and Mayor of Georgetown Mr. Hamilton Green, though puzzling, is still interesting.

Denigrating the City’s clean-up exercise and offering a pretext for the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to boycott the project, his position raises serious doubts about his commitment to a green and clean physical environment.

Why would someone who is against environmental degradation object to the armed forces’ participation in upgrading the environment?

Mr. Green asserts: “I denounced the proposal to involve the Police and Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in this massive cleanup campaign…”

The Central Government, under the leadership of President Irfaan Ali, took to the streets over the weekend and began a clean-up campaign never seen before in Guyana. What is amazing is that not only the armed forces, but members of cabinet, the PSC and the diplomatic community joined in the two-day clean-up campaign. The Central Government has shown that appealing to civic consciousness and volunteerism could also mitigate problems.

This clean-up exercise is a major embarrassment to the M&CC as well as the PNCR.
Mr. Green should know that national development and the expression of civic responsibility must be embraced by all segments of the society, including the armed forces, Government agencies, NGOs, and private enterprises. The technological and social media revolution is altering traditional conceptions of status and roles, to make these compatible with new development trends.

The perception of lack of support for City Hall does not mean lack of support for the city, and a posture that is guided by politics (PPPC vs PNCR). It is very easy to explain problems by substituting reason and evidence with race or politics; most Guyanese would instead embrace evidence-driven arguments. The Central Government has shown that, with the implementation of various city projects, it is committed to upgrading the physical configuration of the city, as well as enhancing its social infrastructure. A more recent example is the plot of land on the Lamaha corridor which stretches between Main and Camp Streets, and which will be developed by Central Government into a “safe space where Guyanese can enjoy family time.”

Notwithstanding the mismanagement and corruption, the City is a top priority of Central Government, and this is also captured by Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall, who notes: “As soon as President Ali took office, one of the first things he did at his first cabinet meeting was to establish a ministerial task force to review development works on behalf of the Government within the city of Georgetown.”

Two examples of mismanagement by the M&CC are presented.

In 2016, the M&CC decided to install parking meters in Georgetown. Despite massive protests against this project by citizens, the M&CC proceeded, with the support of the PNCR-led coalition Government. Despite continuing protests, a contract was signed with Smart City Solutions (SCS). Eventually, the M&CC was forced to abandon the project. Now, five years later, SCS has sued the PPPC Government for US$100 million.

Notes Guyana’s Attorney, the SCS lawsuit is “demonstrative of the previous administration’s mismanagement.” He describes the suit as ‘inherited’ by the PPP/C, and is “onerous on the country’s economy and a financial burden on taxpayers to defend.”

Then there is the case of the iconic City Hall, that has been crumbling for several years, and successive M&CC have failed to develop and implement a restoration plan. The Central Government intervened and collaborated with the M&CC and the European Union to implement a Gy$780 million restoration plan. Seeking to ensure good management of the project, the Central Government ensured that the funds are administered by 3 entities: M&CC, The National Trust, and the Private Sector Commission (PSC). This is not a political, but a strategic management decision. Notably, at the signing of the contract, the Mayor complimented the Central Government and stated: “This can inspire a continuous relationship to execute other projects.” Yet the Mayor was given another opportunity to demonstrate goodwill by participating in the clean-up campaign, but bluntly refused, and called for its boycott instead.

The garbage accumulation has been a perennial problem in Georgetown and the M&CC, and they (M&CC) have not been bothered by it, and therefore take no firm action to solve or mitigate it. This eyesore, combined with the dilapidated PNCR Gy$1.5 billion ‘Green Zone Recreational Park’ (Durban Park), hurts the City’s image and throws a bad light on its citizens. The Central Government cannot always intervene to carry out the ordinary responsibilities of the M&CC. The M&CC allocates a substantial proportion (18%) of its annual Gy$2.4 billion budget for waste management. They should give an account of how the funds are expended. The M&CC must seek rapprochement with the Central Government to make Georgetown the Garden City.

Sincerely,
Dr Tara Singh