President David Granger believes that returning power to the people to allow them to manage the affairs of their communities and advance the development of their regions has been the first priority of the current administration. He said this as he addressed a gathering at Anna Regina during a recent visit.
The President, who was joined by Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally, Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence and Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson, told residents, “You deserve to be able to sit down around the table with your colleagues and comrades, with your neighbours to decide how this beautiful town will be developed.”
The breakdown in local democracy over the past two decades, the Head of State noted, is a major factor in the incidence of social problems being faced in Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region 2) and other communities across the country.
Granger emphasized the importance of problem-solving at the community level and community policing, which he said is one of the functions of local authorities.
“It hurts my heart to hear about suicide. It pains me to hear about some old widow raped and murdered… there must be better community policing. The police must know what is going on in the communities… the community policing [groups] must know what is going on to protect that person’s life,” he said.
The President also called on the Council members, who will be elected in Local Government Elections (LGEs) on March 18, to focus on job creation and education in order to create an educated region and a generation of entrepreneurs, who will use the region’s abundant resources to transform it into an economic power. He said that this approach will also help to reduce social problems.
“It is your job as members of the Anna Region Town Council to reduce inequalities so we don’t have extreme poverty… enable the poor to empower themselves, to enrich themselves, especially through education and employment. We want to have more equality. Once there is inequality you are going to have social problems. You are going to have domination. You are going to have discrimination. You are going to have exploitation,” he said.
The President added that just as Government is working hand in hand with rice millers in Guyana to find markets for rice produced in the region, they will work with the local authorities to ensure that development goals are met.
Minister Bulkan, who also spoke during the public event, said that his Ministry will ensure that the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities will benefit from institutional strengthening and capacity building. He also stated that the Government will ensure that the Councils are not starved of resources, adding that never again will the Central Government usurp the role of local administrative bodies.
The Minister said, “This administration does not believe in dominating all of the power, but it believes in decentralisation, empowerment and handing power to the people,” and he emphasised that this approach is enshrined in Guyana’s constitution to ensure good governance.
He said that though the holding of LGEs comes at a significant cost, it is an important investment.
“The elections that will take place on March 18 will represent a victory in the two decades struggle for the return to local democracy. It represents a huge investment, but it is one that this administration is convinced of its necessity, and the price tag that it comes with, some $1.3B, represents as far as this administration is concerned, an investment in deepening the democratic process and returning democracy as well as handing power to people in our communities to enable them to manage their own affairs,” Minister Bulkan said.
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