A major epidemic or concerted action of the people is needed to bring the authorities to their senses
By Michael Benjamin
Once again the garbage workers went on strike, forcing an unsightly mound of garbage all across the so called Garden City. Only this time some folks were prepared for them. A resident fell upon a foolproof plan and each day wrapped his garbage in gift paper and put it in a shopping bag which he placed on his car seat with one of the windows opened. The following day he discovered that the garbage had been ‘stolen.’ As the idiom goes, ‘The stricter (or dirtier), the government, the wiser the population.’
The unsightly mounds of garbage that have dotted the city and transformed Georgetown into an unsightly, ugly mess have become a regular feature and is a spin-off of the band aid solutions employed over the years to retain a healthy environment coupled with the inflexible position of officials in Central Government to widen the income base of the beleaguered Mayor & City Council. The current imbroglio is a direct spinoff with the concomitant result that citizens are held at ransom; their health placed at risk as City Council officials and garbage contractors haggle over payments for services rendered.
This is but a minute aspect of the problem as the issue is further compounded when one notes that City Hall is hardly able to pay its workers their monthly dues and logically will not be able to meet the huge bills owed to Cevon’s Waste Management, Puran Brothers and other contractors vested with the task of cleaning up the city.
Naturally, a bottleneck develops, forcing the contractors to rescind their services leading to a massive build up of unsightly mounds of garbage all around the once highly touted, Garden City.
Nothing beats such unbridled lawlessness exhibited by those vested with maintaining the cleanliness of the environment and despite the shared view that the blame falls squarely at the feet of the Mayor and his officials at City Hall, those in the know are less hasty to proffer such a prognosis, since it is obvious that these officials are boxed in by Central Government and not given the free hand necessary to implement strategies and initiatives towards an acceptable turnaround of the status quo.
The chapter has been played out before; garbage contractors decide that since the M&CC has stopped delivering the cheques, they would stop delivering the goods. Georgetown and its environs are then transformed into an unsightly spectacle of solid and human wastes as mounds of smelly garbage accumulate around the city with the business areas, especially around Regent and Robb Streets, the hub of the business community, taking on the appearance of a landfill site.
Such decadence can reasonably be juxtaposed to the thought processes of those officials placed in crucial positions to maintain the environment to an acceptable level, and the time has long past when citizens must demonstrate disgust at the status quo and enact strategies to force the relevant authorities to either perform their functions or vacate their posts, paving the way for the installation of competent people to get the job done.
On the surface it would appear as though the Mayor is at fault, therefore justifying the strenuous calls for his head. Taken that indeed the problem lies in this direction, finding a solution should be the simplest of tasks and one wonders why the situation continues unabated. Closer scrutiny will reveal that the situation is not as simplistic as many are wont to believe and it is apparent that unless reforms are enacted within the M&CC, citizens can rest assured that the current cleanup exercise will offer but the minimum of relief and that it will not be long before this situation raises its ugly head once again.
Every country has unique problems that beg collective brainpower to resolve. No country is devoid of such challenges; no government equipped with unlimited funds to address them. However, this does not present a green light for public officials to abdicate their responsibilities, and the relevant authorities must come up with solutions. It is not as if they would not have envisaged these challenges when they were campaigning for those portfolios. While such a rationale seems sound, one is forced to adopt a different mode of rationalization when examining the City Hall scenario.
One is tempted to question the powers invested in the Mayor and whether he is given a free hand in enacting strategies and initiatives towards the establishment of a healthy city. One also wonders aloud of the inability of City Hall to retain even a semblance of solvency despite the plethora of avenues available to increase its financial base.
The influx of motor vehicles into the country over the past few years should have ignited the thought processes of M&CC officials and parking meters should have been erected at strategic points in the city to enhance the revenue base. Further, there have been repeated calls for a Municipal Court to address matters directly related to the M&CC, but such an institution remains a pipe dream, stifling the revenue base of that institution. Itinerant vendors flock Regent Street despite the most strenuous efforts of the coercive arm of the M&CC to have them removed, yet none of the officials visualize this to be a revenue base that can be regularized and controlled. Instead, the M&CC utilizes scarce human resources to conduct frequent raids to rid the streets of what they refer to as an ‘unwanted scourge’ even as the itinerant vendors complain that some of these officers are requesting bribes to turn a blind eye on their activities. Those that refuse to acquiesce to such corrupt transactions are hassled and disallowed from peddling their wares even as the compliers enjoy unrestrained immunity. Sad state of affairs indeed! The itinerant vendors have also complained that much of their goods are destroyed due to careless handling by officers of the Constabulary and in other cases items disappear while on its way to the head office.
The recent injection of some $215 million by the government to offset expenses and bring the situation to a semblance of sanity appears as an act of generosity and even though the sum is grossly inadequate to address the problem on a long term basis, one is tempted to wonder aloud why such chivalry is only extended when the situation reaches such alarming proportions. Someone is obviously playing hard core politics at the expense of the health of the nation. One needs not be a rocket scientist nor engage in practices of the dark world to envisage the unfolding crises and fix the problem before it is firmly established. With such rationalization, even the uninitiated will assume that the situation was allowed to fester to create a ‘knight in shining armor’ situation.
Consequently, the time is long overdue for citizens to stand firm and demand more from their elected officials, otherwise the inadequate band aid solutions will only exacerbate an already volatile situation. A major epidemic should not be ruled out which would place undue pressure on the burdened health sector. One shudders to think of the concomitant result, and every conscientious Guyanese should resolve to sound their voices to put an end to such administrative ineptitude and/or shortsightedness. Otherwise, those complying through silence must not bellyache when the hammer falls—on their coffins.