President David Granger, today, called on local democratic organs to drive the revitalisation and renewal of villages, in which the majority of the Guyanese population still reside.
He also challenged leaders at the level of the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), to be more proactive and improve their revenue collection rather than becoming wholly dependent on Central Government.
“Local government organs must be autonomous to allow them to serve their residents’ best interests. They must not be dominated by or become dependent on Central Government. Local government organs must deliver quality public services to residents. The provision of public services is vital to improving the living and working conditions within neighbourhoods and villages,” he said.
Speaking at the inaugural National Conference of Local Democratic Organs (NCDLO), the Head of State pointed out that RDCs, NDCs and municipalities are bound by the Constitution to provide services such as the maintenance of bridges, drainage and irrigation structures, roads, security, street-lighting, sanitation, sporting and recreational facilities; promotion education, employment and economic enterprises, including cottage industries and health and preservation of values and culture at the level of communities.
“These are demanding duties. These are vast responsibilities. These functions require collaboration, cooperation and coordination between the various local government organs and Central Government. They require commitment by all and at all levels of government and society…The provision of public services is vital to improving the living and working conditions within neighbourhoods and villages,” the President said.
The need for a conference of this nature was first highlighted in March of this year, when the President was invited to a meeting with NDC Chairpersons and Councillors on the Corentyne.
He explained that issues raised at that forum made it clear that a better structure of cooperation and collaboration was needed between the three tiers (local, regional and Central) of government in order to empower local democratic organs.
“The NCLDO is a deliberate intervention intended to become a platform for promoting the work of NDCs, municipalities and RDCs. It can provide a practical basis for them to work together with Central Government to strengthen community development and improve citizens’ quality of life… This National Conference of Local Democratic Organs could become an annual forum aimed at establishing itself as a vehicle for delivering improved services to all local communities…The NCLDO is intended to support local government organs. It can foster collaboration, and improve coordination so as to support the renewal and revitalization of our villages and communities. The NCLDO aims at empowering, not emasculating, local democratic organs. It respects their autonomy,” President Granger said.
He also reiterated his call for communities to prepare and implement their own Village Improvement Plans or VIPs; noting that with the rebirth of local democracy as a result of the holding of Local Government Elections when it is constitutionally due, villages could look forward to renewal and revitalisation.
Meanwhile, Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan reminded that the Constitution of Guyana identifies and entrenches the local government system as the foundation of the democratic organisation of the State, a feature which does not exist in any other Caribbean Commonwealth country.
He also informed that the feedback garnered from deliberations at this forum will feed into the planning of budget 2019, which will be presented to the National Assembly in November.
Today’s event also saw sessions on leadership and a presentation on the modernisation of the property valuation system by foreign consultants.