Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gov’t bails out Georgetown City Council, again

– $215 million injected immediately
- further $450 million being spent on city roads

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday intervened and offered a financial bailout to the Georgetown City Council, to relieve the Council of its ongoing financial woes, and to enable the municipality to meet outstanding liabilities, including wages owed to staff and amounts due to garbage collectors for several months.

‘ANOTHER BAIL-OUT’: President Bharrat Jagdeo and other government officials in discussion with City Council officials yesterday.

President Jagdeo, accompanied by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn, and Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker, met with a delegation of senior officers from the municipality and received an update on the financial difficulties facing the Council.

The President announced that the Government will be paying $80 million in rates and taxes to the Council immediately. This payment will bring Government's rate payments up to date to the end of the third quarter this year.
In addition, Government will be injecting a further $120 million into the municipality to help meet its outstanding liabilities and to accelerate its efforts to keep the City clean.

In addition to this, a further $15 million will be provided by the Central Government to the City Council for the purposes of cleaning up the Le Repentir cemetery. Taken together, these payments will see Government injecting a total of $215 million into the city with immediate effect.

Furthermore, the President also indicated that the Central Government is currently spending in excess of $450 million to rehabilitate various roads and streets within the city. This has the result of enhancing the physical environment of the city considerably but also, by virtue of the fact that these works are being financed by the Central Government, the Council’s financial collections would be available to do other works in the City.

The President emphasised to the City officials attending the meeting the need for more responsible management by the municipality of its finances, especially as it relates to controlling and prioritising its financial outflows.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that, during yesterday’s meeting, the City Hall representatives - comprising Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, the town clerk, treasurer, and other senior functionaries - argued the case that debt clearance and worker remuneration remain hurdles in spite of the Council’s best efforts.

Minister Whittaker told GINA in an invited comment after the meeting that some money has been allocated for extensive works on Le Repentir Cemetery.

Minister Benn has been mandated to oversee this project, while the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development will work in partnership with the City Council to spruce up Georgetown.
“We have been helping the City Council from way back; we have been bailing them out,” Minister Whittaker said, pointing to the fleet of vehicles which Government has made available to the council through the Local Government Ministry to facilitate garbage collection.

Delays in payment by the MCC recently forced garbage contractors to withdraw their services in protest, leaving a pile-up of garbage in sections of the city, posing several concerns for residents.

On August 5, Minister Whittaker visited various areas in Georgetown to have a firsthand look at the garbage situation, in the company of Town Clerk Yonette Pluck.

Visits were made to the Stabroek Market area; High Street, between Regent and Robb Streets; and Bourda Market, among other areas; and Minister Whittaker spoke about plans to engage the private sector on proper garbage disposal and management practices.

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