The rains came and Georgetown was under water for all of November 27, last. Schools closed their doors and many businesses simply declined to serve the public. At this time of the year when businesses in the city make fifty percent of their profits to keep the doors closed would have been a terrible blow.
Days after the flood we are hearing that the main opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity, and the City Council as it is now constituted, must accept all the blame. They are the parties responsible for the administration of the city. At least that is what the government would want the nation to believe.
When local government elections were held in 1994, Hamilton Green, then the former Prime Minister in the People’s National Congress administration, had formed his own political party which he called A Good and Green Guyana (GGG). He had opted for a direct clash with the leader of the PNC, Desmond Hoyte, to take on the PNC. He won. He beat the PNC at the polls.
Today, with Hamilton Green being a former high official of the PNC, the government is contending that the PNC is really in charge of the council, especially since the Mayor is now once more a member of the main opposition party.
What is worthy of note is that the government is bent on its policy of ‘us and them’ with the latter being the main opposition political party. At the weekly press conference of the ruling party the Minister of Local Government made some interesting observations. For one, he claimed that the council’s inability to dispose of the garbage on the streets led to the flooding.
There might have been some garbage piles but were these blocking the drains and the outfall channels? And did the city council have the wherewithal to remove the garbage piles? The council always says that it does not have enough money to manage its affairs.
For one, the council wanted to introduce an environment tax. It recognised that most of the garbage in the city was left behind by people from outside the city. At the same time Styrofoam was the imported product so City Hall wanted to tax this product. A tax was implemented but the government collected it.
Then there was the process to collect the garbage. There was a time when the council was equipped for garbage removal in the city. It had a fleet of garbage trucks and it had its incinerator. Nothing lasts forever. The council had a mechanical section but no money to buy spares. The trucks went the way of the garbage, in the compound of the incinerator.
The government may have a case in point when it says that City Hall is responsible for its own predicament. It lags behind in its rate collection. The Ministry of Local Government says that the council collects about thirty per cent of the available revenue.
But having said that, the council cannot do much to collect the collectable. If it opts to move to the courts the ratepayers have options. They can hire a lawyer who would stall the process. The very court process is so slow that by the time the case comes around the litigant may not even be around.
City Hall has tried from time to time to regularize the rate collection but at each turn the government has moved to keep the rate at the existing levels. On Monday the Local Government Minister said why. The council cannot collect the money at its disposal so it should not be gifted more.
When all is said and done the government keeps the council in check by making it impossible for the council to even try to be independent. The Town Clerk sacked a garbage disposal unit at a time when there was a crisis, when garbage piled up. The government approved and City Hall was in a bind. It had to remove the garbage with what it had, because the government said so.
And so the flood came.
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