BY PAT DIAL
A few Sundays ago, in one of the dailies, the Parking Meter Contract between Smart City Solutions Co of Mexico and the Georgetown City Council was published. This was the first time that this document was publicized in this way.
This, together with an earlier media report of a few months ago that the City Council had adopted, the Report of their re-negotiating team which they had appointed to review their Contract with Smart City, gave the impression that the Council was on its way to starting up the Parking Meter Scheme again.
Several consumer activists had informed us that the City Council had decided to move slower on this issue owing to the imminency of the Local Government elections. It was feared that since the Scheme was unpopular in the City, city councillors who supported the Scheme may find their re-election more difficult.
This leads to the logical conclusion that those candidates who are offering themselves to the various constituencies should be made to give their position on the establishment of the Parking Meter scheme and should pledge themselves to periodically report to their constituencies on the main issues being deliberated upon by the City Council.
In revisiting the Parking Meter Scheme, it is apposite that we recap a few facts about it: Firstly, no feasibility study of the Scheme was done, and if one was done, the Company has studiously kept it away from the Georgetown citizens. Secondly, the Contract was negotiated and agreed to without the City Hall being accorded expert legal advice and this has resulted in its being one-sided and in some ways not in the interest of the Guyanese side. Thirdly, the legality of the Contract is open to question on several grounds. Fourthly, the issue is before the Courts and until a final decision has been arrived at, the City Council could not proceed with the Scheme.
One of the most important things to note about the Parking Meter Scheme is that it has no relationship to traffic control. The raison d’etre of the Scheme is to raise money from the citizens and those persons from the countryside who may visit Georgetown with their vehicles. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that most of the parking meters are placed in parts of the City where there is very little traffic. It should therefore be emphasized that the Parking Meter Scheme is not a traffic control measure but a revenue-raising one.
It should be reiterated that nowhere else in the world had parking meters been instituted primarily as a revenue-gathering measure. If parking meters are instituted as primarily a revenue-gathering measure, it inevitably leads to the unjust exploitation of the citizens.
There are a number of other issues about the Parking Meter Scheme, which would have to be resolved before the Scheme could become fully acceptable to the public. We will give some of them at random:-
In the Contract between Smart City and the City Council, Smart City would be allocated 80% of the profits while the City Council would have to be contented with 20%. In this equation, the City Council would be contributing more than 80% of the input to the Scheme, which would include the use of the road-system of the city of Georgetown which is worth billions of dollars, the ultimate responsibility for enforcement, and protecting the Parking Meters by night and day. This would imply the deployment of 30% of the Constabulary to these tasks costing millions of dollars. From their input to the Scheme, the City Council should receive at least 80% of the profits. The present profit-sharing arrangement is highly iniquitous to the Guyana side.
The Parking Meter Scheme will be a substantial drain on Guyana’s foreign exchange and no estimate of the US dollars to be taken out of the country has been made to the Bank of Guyana or the Ministry of Finance. Smart City will have to correct this omission.
In the Contract, Smart City is allowed the concession to build parking garages. Parking garages is a different industry from outdoor parking and the City Council will have to negotiate a fair return from such a venture. At the moment, it is a giveaway of public assets and this omission must be corrected.
It seems that the Contract precludes business houses from using their own parking or owners using their empty lots as paid parking or even their yards. The City Council should try to extricate themselves from this illegality.
Parking meters or parking spaces outside business places could impede the loading and unloading of their goods and this is bound to result in a great deal of litigation for which the taxpayer will ultimately pay.
The parking meter rates proposed by Smart City are far too high and, indeed oppressive, and seem to be a conversion of the US dollar rates charged abroad into Guyana dollars.
Such high rates would prevent people from the countryside from coming to Georgetown to do their business, resulting in economic loss to the City and its residents; it would be a social setback to the many young people who would have owned a car for the first time and would have been faced with prohibitive parking rates; and it is inevitable in a milieu of resentment and disgruntlement that there would be attempted vandalization of the parking meters.
The City Council will have to review the Contract making changes so that it becomes acceptable to the public.
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