A decennial clean-up
June 27, 2002
At the moment the city appears a hive of activity. Drains and canals which have been neglected forever are being desilted, parapets are being weeded, trees are being trimmed, bridges are being painted, roads are being repaired and yes, even the nature zone which is D’Urban Park, is being tamed.
It is not just the City Council which has gone into overdrive; the Ministry of Works too is revealing its latent talents by fixing some of the major roads including Mandela Avenue, Vlissengen Road, Battery Road, Middle Street, Quamina Street and Pere Street. And then there are buildings like the Cultural Centre, which has been crying out for repairs for endless years and now is being treated to a $15M facelift. It will get a new bar, new air-conditioning units, a painting and lacquering job, new tiles in the fishpond (a sure shock to the fish), a new lighting system, a renovated stage, a rehabilitated fountain and repairs to the auditorium, balcony and VIP lounge. It is all enough to take your breath away.
Most people know the reason for the sudden obsession on the part of the authorities with sanitation and aesthetics in the capital, but for the benefit of those who live like recluses, the reason is that Guyana is hosting the Twenty-third Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in early July. At his press briefing last week, Dr Roger Luncheon in his customary laconic fashion said that sufficient funds had been allocated to deal with the summit, and that a fair assessment would be that "no cost is being spared."
No problem with that; after all, if one cannot provide the facilities and outlook for an international conference, then one should not be taking it on in the first place. No, the real question is why is it we have to wait for a Heads of Government Summit before the city is cleaned up. Just where, for example, have all those council workers materialised from? Were they on the establishment all the time, or have some been recruited specially for the occasion? And if they have been on the MCC’s wage sheets for some time, why have they not been employed before in a clean-up exercise? Why are they not doing regular maintenance work? What is it, exactly, that they normally do?
We denizens of Georgetown are not all that demanding. We would like a relatively clean city, where the drains and canals are kept flowing, the garbage is removed regularly (there has been improvement there, at least, in recent times), the bush is kept under control and litterers are not given lectures about spiritual revival, but are actually prosecuted. If it not asking too much, we would like those roads which have been fixed at considerable public expense to be maintained, and bit by bit, for the others to be rehabilitated as well. How is it that all these wonders can be achieved because some overseas prime ministers and presidents hit our shores, and we cannot do it for ourselves on an on-going basis?
And when, it might be asked, are we going to get the benefit of a clean-up campaign on this scale again? Well, Citizens of Georgetown, don’t hold your breath. Taking into account that each CARICOM state takes it in turn to host the summit, and bearing in mind the addition of new members, a fair estimate would be in ten years time. The question is, should we really be settling for a decennial clean-up?