The first municipal council of Lethem, Region Nine plans to bring to fruition several long awaited developments, including the Lethem Industrial Site.
Mayor of the recently commissioned township of Lethem, Carlton Beckles said that the completion of the industrial area, with an emphasis on agro-processing is among priorities that the council has set to accomplish, before it demits office.
“We want an industrial area that you will have utilizing things that are readily available inside here in Lethem,” the Mayor said in a recent interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA.)
The Council wants produce including cashew nut and mangoes, which are abundant in the region, to be processed in the Industrial Site, the Mayor said.
Beckles explained that the vision is to have, “business being done in such a way that it is a level playing field.”
“We do not want to have persons coming into the industrial area to establish businesses that are already established there. For example the persons who are making the blocks with their hands, we would not want to see somebody coming here in the industrial area, with a block making machine, to put that person out of business. We would like to see that person go into the industrial area to get all the necessary support (so) that they can acquire the different machinery that they can produce these blocks,” he explained.
He further pointed out that the vision is “not for persons to come into the site and open shop anymore to do buying and selling.” “Leave that to the locals, invest in the industrial development of the community,” Beckles said.
The Council also envisions a specific area within the industrial site that would be reserved for an auto assembly plant. “It might sound far-fetched but definitely, why we cannot through Central Government, lobby one of those automakers that they can set up an assembly plant here in Guyana with an aim of exporting to Brazil to Caribbean,” the Mayor questioned.
Outside of developing the enterprise in the town, the council’s plans for the municipality for the next three years, also encompass education and several other empowerment projects.
Mayor Beckles explained that under education, the vision is to have an education city and this would encompass having a secondary school, a technical institute and a university in the town.
“Listening to that plan definitely it is not short term, we would not acquire that during our tenure, but is something for us to build on, because we have the space, that we could have all those things within a square (in Lethem),” he said.
Immediate education plans would see the realization of a library, equipped with Wi-Fi, where residents, particularly teachers and students, can access the internet to do research, at a small cost, the mayor explained.
The Council has also committed to making available, on an annual basis, monetary contributions to the top three National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) students of the town.
The municipality is looking to realise the region’s first Fire Station. Beckles advised that the Deputy Fire Chief has met with the council, a land has been identified and the construction of the building is expected to commence very soon.
In area of empowerment, the Municipality is also rehabilitating the Lethem market even as it is upgrading several sport facilities. Beckles advised that the sports ground in Culvert City and Tabtinga, Lethem, are being enclosed and sanitary facilities will be installed.
But even as the municipality seeks to push ahead to bring about these developments, Beckles pointed out that it is being restrained by challenges such as staffing. “We do not have the required amount of staff and it is understandably so because we are a new municipality, where we have to get our town clerk, town treasurer, superintendent of works, public health officer…,” he explained. The building that houses, the municipality is also inadequate, Beckles noted.
The council must also deal with the attitude of the residents. The Mayor explained that the residents are accustomed to “doing things one way.” He pointed out that because this was allowed in the past, “there is a lot of unregulated development in Lethem.”
“So you have a challenge ahead to convince the residents, where they have to change now to regulated development, and this entails interacting with them and sensitizing them on the way forward, not to go and undo what was done already, but to educate them on the challenges going forward,” he added.
Beckles said that once the council can overcome these challenges, “we can get things in place. We can be able to make progress…and once we can develop the municipality, by extension the region will develop,” he said.