As someone who remembers, not that very long ago, when Georgetown was celebrated as the ‘Garden City’ and the envy of the Caribbean; when the city’s drains and alleyways were routinely cleaned, with the Guyana Fire Service being co-opted by the City Council to regularly power wash the pavements and flush the wide canals; when the roads, streets and avenues were well maintained, the streets and pavements particularly in the commercial areas were kept free of itinerant and stationary vendors, allowing persons to walk the streets freely without being harassed; when the parapets were well manicured and the trees along the streets were pruned and trimmed, flowering and providing shade; when the Le Repentir Cemetery was like a huge park, with palms and other trees lining the roadways, and beautiful flowers on the parapets; when the various municipal markets were kept clean and safe from petty thieves, and when it was a pleasure to shop in them, I sit and shake my head, and wonder how we got into this absolutely disgusting, chaotic, and abominable state.
Could it just be as a result of sheer incompetence, laziness, inexperience and a lack of vision? Is it just criminal negligence, or is it as a result of intentional sabotage, malevolence and corruption?
The drainage system has all but collapsed, causing flooding each and every day that it rains. The roads which are not maintained by central Government are all broken up. Garbage collection, which has been contracted out at an exorbitant cost, is becoming sporadic. No longer are the parapets weeded, even though the Council has many fancy brush cutters. The markets have become slums, mosquitoes have pervaded the city and rats have taken over the markets; and the Le Repentir Cemetery has become part of the Amazon jungle.
A visit to the Stabroek Market area at night is a most confusing, frightening, and devasting experience. There is loud, obscene music coming from every direction; there are vendors everywhere, harassing persons at every turn; thieves casually relieve individuals of their personal belongings, and three-card and chic-chic board men are leaving many persons with empty pockets through sleight of hand.
The question is: When and how will this all end? Guyana is being transformed; it is time that the Local Government Commission understands that the present cadre of senior officers of the Council are either unwilling or incapable of saving Georgetown. They have to hire a new breed and batch of persons with the competence, integrity and commitment to making Georgetown earn the accolade of being the Garden City once again.