Mayor Narine wants increased fines for illegal dumping, to take delinquent taxpayers to court

Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine

See full letter issued by Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine

Dear Editor,

Permit me a few lines in your publication to highlight some issues that I consider of utmost importance.

Solid waste management and Tax collection represent two major challenges for the Mayor and City Council (M&CC). I am pleased that responsible business owners who utilize the service provided by the council and produce excess garbage during their stock taking periods use supplemental services to ensure it is removed. I am also heartened by businesses and residents who ensure they are up to date with their payments. They must be commended for honouring their duty and responsibility.

We must admit that the culture of littering and dumping has stuck despite our many efforts to dissuade. This must be addressed frontally at all levels to raise awareness, especially in the context of an oil and gas economy where the population of visitors is expected to increase significantly.

We must also state, as I have said recently, that there is too much politicization in the affairs of the city. We cannot make the citizens of Georgetown scapegoats to historical fights and one-upmanship. The City of Georgetown belongs to all Guyanese. All arms of Government rest in the city. It is the confluence of Guyana; our culture, food and people.

Our Solid Waste Department works tirelessly, removing garbage from streets and cleaning numerous illegal dumpsites. It was only recently that a quantity of drugs and medical waste were simply dumped on the road side. The hazard and threat to the livelihood of our citizens, especially the younger ones, makes this shameful act utterly inexcusable. It is alarming that some in our city are comfortable putting others at risk. The massive dumpsites being made of empty lots are numerous. To make matters worse the City is unable to charge the owners of these properties for the cost of removal and disposal because the bylaws do not provide for this.

As Mayor I have publicly called for both Government and Opposition to work together to address the bylaws which will enable the council to increase the fines for illegal dumping and to take delinquent taxpayers to a Municipal court to ensure everyone pays their due and fair tax. These changes will also enable the Municipality to fine persons for littering and delinquent property owners who fail to enclose their properties allowing them to become dumpsites. These fines will then be remitted to the Municipality to relieve the burden on diligent taxpayers for a cleaner city with improved service.

I have stated at numerous times that there is a need for a National Solid Waste Management plan. As a country, we have moved beyond dumpsites and landfills and must consider at minimum a Recycling Plant that will need support from Government and private sector to effectively manage solid waste. It is important to note that Inter-American Development Bank, conducted a study in The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago and produced a report in April 2016 which highlighted:

 “Public-private partnerships  are  another  important  component  of  a  solid waste   management   system,  as  the  Government cannot    successfully    implement and operate such a  system  on  its  own.    The involvement of the private sector must be facilitated by way of the policy, legal and    institutional    frame – works.  It is paramount to review or establish frame – works   for   public   private sector     partnerships     to stimulate   investments   in the sector.” – Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), 2016. Solid Waste Management in the Caribbean: Proceedings from the Caribbean Solid Waste Conference.

Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados implemented many of the recommendations contained in the report, it is my hope that this can be done soonest. 

I applaud responsible business owners, as I have read recently, who pay their taxes and employ supplemental garbage collection services as well as maintain their drains and parapet. I wish to encourage you to advocate your fellow business colleagues to follow your example as we work together in our City’s development.

Reevaluation is inevitable if we are serious about the growth and expansion of our city. This is not a political issue. I am sure many would be shocked at the rates currently collected, especially in the context of the development that has occurred since implementation. Hard decisions are made daily to avert potential disasters with our limited financial resources. I am confident that all of Guyana will agree that our march to modernity, similar to other cities around the Caribbean and world, will entail changes and greater collaboration for us all.

I wish to be clear that the Mayor and City council supports the business sector and welcomes partnership. We are all custodians of our capital and must all take responsibility for it. We must work together to bring real solutions to improve the lives of all Guyanese.