BRING BUSINESSES ON BOARD
February 6, 2007
At first I could not believe what I was reading. Sixty-five persons in one ward alone in the city were found with dirty yards and without refuse disposal bins, and twenty-two persons are to be charged as part of the anti-litter campaign launched by the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown.
How ironic that the city should be filing charges against persons for having dirty yards when the capital city has acquired the unwelcome sobriquet, of the Garbage City .
I wonder who is going to be charged for the garbage-filled, stink and disease-infested alleyways that are to be found in many parts of the city. Just who is going to be held in default for the neglect of roadside parapets in the city? Just who is going to be blamed for the unsanitary state of the city's markets? Not to mention the perilous state of the city's cemetery.
Surely, the Georgetown City Council cannot be serious about charging people for dirty yards when the entire city is one filthy town. The City Council it seems has adopted the example of the Guyana Revenue Authority and is waving the rod of correction when it should be trying to upkeep its obligations to the city.
Each year, millions of dollars are spent on clearing out the city's alleyways. And each year, the Peeper keeps reminding the Council that this is like throwing water on a duck's back; that what is needed is not just the contract work to clear the heavy overgrowth and silt in alleys and drains. What is also needed is a plan to ensure the regular cleaning of drains after the heavy works would have been completed.
It makes absolutely no sense for millions of dollars to be spent to clean the city's drains and alleyways when there is no routine maintenance and cleaning program to ensure that these drains and alleyways do not return to their unhealthy state after the heavy cleaning.
I have given the Georgetown City Council an abundance of ideas on how to make the council self- financing without having to ask for any new taxes. I have urged in these columns restructuring in a number of areas of the council's operations and I am pleased to note that at least one of those ideas has been taken on board.
I do not agree that the council should however be taking people to court for having dirty yards when the city itself has a less than flattering reputation as it relates to being clean and hygienic. I would urge the council to adopt a different approach.
Not that I condone littering or dirty yards. I do not. However, I do not feel that the council possesses the moral authority at this stage to be dragging people before the courts for having dirty yards when there is still a great deal more that the council should be doing to keep the city clean and tidy.
Anti-litter campaigns are not going to work. Georgetown is in state of terminal neglect and new approaches are required, not waving the big stick.
The most taxed sector of the capital is the business community. In fact, the Peeper believes that businesses are bearing too great a burden of the taxes intended to be collected by the city. I have suggested before that the system of tariffs be amended to include a tax for specific services such as garbage collection, plus a general tax for other things such as road repairs, road lighting etc. This would be much fairer and would encourage many businesses to pay up their outstanding liabilities since they would be assured that for specific services they would be paying an economic cost.
I appreciate that this type of reform is not solely within the powers of the city and requires governmental support, something that is likely to emerge only after some foreign-funded study, a string of public consultations, fractious parliamentary debates and then a period of phasing in the new tariffs, by which time the city would have been consumed by overgrowth.
I am therefore going to suggest something that can be done in the short-term and which can lead to sustained standards while allowing businesses to benefit from tax rebates.
I would suggest that the business centre of Georgetown be divided into blocks. The Council should then call a meeting of all the businesses within each block and put before them the following suggestion.
The business community should be asked to assist with the upkeep of the drains, parapets, alleyways, road lights, roads and garbage disposal within their area. There should be some agreement as to what these services are going to cost and businesses that contribute to these works should enjoy a write off against their tax liability to the council.
It is clear to me that the City Council needs all the help that it can get and the best way to get this help is to bring the business community on board, to give them a meaningful role in the indirect management of their communities while at the same time ensuring that they can enjoy a reduction in their taxes in direct relation to the amount of money they spend to keep their surroundings clean and tidy.
I am sure that most of the businesses located in the central business district will buy into this idea since it will enhance the environment in which they operate. And I think that these businesses will get their alleyways and drains cleaned and will have their garbage properly disposed of.
Already there are some businesses who are taking a leading role in keeping sections of the city clean. So let us bring the others on board and attempt a reversal of the conditions in Georgetown .