Building Cohesive, Empowered and Sustainable Communities
Supporting the Coalition Government’s fifth budget in almost four years, the Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan said it also provides for sustainable local government, “as a critical partner in national development, and the continued strategic support of rebuilding the LGS.”
These priority areas, the Minister explained, “include but are not limited to; community participation, institutional strengthening and capacity building, financial security and funding of councils and regional development. In addition to our core sectors of Housing, Water and Sanitation for the delivery of a ‘community experience.”
The $300.7Billion budget caters for increased access to affordable housing units and increased occupancy, the minister added, “particularly within infrastructural underdeveloped schemes (another deformed project inherited from the previous administration), which requires considerable resources to rectify; to make habitable and suitable.”
Highlighting the Hinterland Housing Programme, Minister Bulkan noted: “where households in the Barima/Waini and Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo regions have benefitted from housing subsidies by way of core homes and roof replacements.”
The Government’s priority to increase safe water access and reducing the disparity in service between coastal and hinterland communities was further noted. This will continue in 2019, he said. Also, the ongoing work programme for sanitation management included promoting effective management of solid waste across communities.
Several new landfills are being improved or constructed as part of this programme, the Communities Minister added. It was further explained that $95Million is being spent on new systems to improve the Haags Bosch Land Fill Site and the previously prevailing smells that affected neighbouring communities has been greatly reduced. The Green generation Guyana campaign, the minister revealed will also be launched to educate the populace, starting with youths initially, he informed.
Minister Bulkan also informed the House that though not a silver bullet for the town council’s revenue woes, “the transformation and modernisation of the property assessment framework remains a priority.” It is a constitutional prescription, he explained, that local government areas be economically viable and have an adequate resource base for the management and development of their area as per Article 72.
An updated property register is essential to councils’ abilities to be effective in the discharge of their functions and financial autonomy and viability. Reference was made to the Finance Minister’s announcement that $320Million will be invested to conduct mass property valuations over an 18-month period.
According to Minister Bulkan, by the end of 2019, councils should have updated registers, “enabling them to make equitable decisions on the rate percentages they want to utilise. The choice of rates will invariably determine the quantum of resources available to the council, the quality and delivery of services and level of investment in the community.” He posited however that the choice of rates will ultimately be a decision of each Council, individually, not a judgement by Central Government.
The minister reiterated the move was not an exercise in taxation, as stated by the Opposition, “This is an exercise in empowering Local Democratic Organs. This is an exercise in making important resource options available to the various councils and communities, thereby insulating them from the whims and fancies of politicians and agencies fixated with control.”
It was stressed that for some LDOs this subvention reliance meant that central government accounted for over two-thirds of their actual expenditures. Minister Bulkan made it clear that government’s wish was to have all councils freed of such central political control, “to be guided by established norms and good governance practice; to be accountable to relevant institutions and principally, their constituents.”
Paul Mc Adam
Images: Jameel Moham