No one doubts the dire need of the City Council for resources. Its current income from rates and taxes is inadequate to maintain even the basic services it now provides. The City Council has had to rely on the help of the central government in the past and continues to do so. The central government may have gone along with the parking meter plan because it wanted to support the City Council’s drive to increase revenue and to be itself relieved of the burden. It made a mistake. Many still remember the sustained campaign by the then Opposition against the $2,000 fee for crossing the Berbice Bridge. One of its first acts upon entering Government was to reduce those fees by way of subsidy.
In the face of Government support and the Opposition’s token objections, it took a while for resistance to develop. When the reality of the charges hit home it triggered the formation of the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM), led by some prominent citizens. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that organized resistance has emerged because the fees are beyond the pockets of private car, taxi and mini bus owners who travel to or move around in Georgetown to work or do business. As yesterday’s press reports, including of Friday’s demonstration showed, big business, middle class employees, vendors and taxi drivers were all represented in the demonstration. A major concern appeared to be the dramatic reduction in retail trade for stores, shops and vendors. This should certainly invite Government’s concern.
On December 29 the Attorney General’s Chambers issued a statement asserting that the lease that had been granted to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) in connection with the property in Kingston, Georgetown, known as ‘Red House,’ was invalid. Extensive reasons were given as the basis for that conclusion. On the following day a statement by Mr. Anil Nandlall, a prominent and well-respected lawyer and former Attorney General, was published. It was an equally extensive statement with a detailed legal analysis challenging the conclusions of the statement of the Attorney General’s Chambers.
In the meantime, on the evening of December 29, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency informed the public that the President had revoked the lease on the basis of the advice given by the Attorney General’s Chambers and had given the CJRC 48 hours to vacate the premises. The CJRC had occupied the premises for about fifteen years and had accumulated a vast amount of material. Even trespassers are given longer periods to vacate premises by courts. In law, the period given must be reasonable. 48 hours could not be reasonable under any circumstances.
The Government has deemed as suitable the bond owned by Linden Holdings in Sussex Street, Georgetown, which it contracted to store pharmaceuticals at $1,200 a square foot, when a bond for $228 a square is available. The Government said that the rental will be negotiated downwards and if the negotiations are unsuccessful then twelve months notice of termination in accordance with the agreement would be given. At $12 million a month, this will cost the Guyanese taxpayer $144 million, payable to Linden Holdings for an initial $25 million investment which it has already recovered as an initial advance.
The Government might make mistakes, as Vice President Ramjattan admitted, but it does not lack an innovative and fertile imagination. The objections to the Government owned Diamond bond, which has been approved as suitable by international agencies, are that a fire can occur and that the traffic situation is not conducive!
It appears as if the Georgetown City Council has already decided in principle to install parking meters in Georgetown for the purpose of creating an additional source of revenue. The streets in which the meters are to be installed are Avenue of the Republic, Regent Street, Robb Street, Camp Street, Main Street, Brickdam, Water Street, America Street and Church Street. This decision should be reconsidered.
Coming so soon after the elections, the decision to install parking meters was clearly on APNU+AFC’s agenda prior to the elections. During the elections, APNU+AFC contestants had ample opportunity to inform the residents of Georgetown that parking meters were on the agenda but they kept this plot a secret for obvious reasons.
The word ‘Pharaoh’ and other abuse reverberated around downtown Georgetown a week and a half ago, directed to an embarrassed Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. He was doing a ‘walkabout’ in support of vendors who had been displaced from around the Stabroek Market area. He may not have expected the vendors’ hostility because the last time he would have walked around Georgetown while President, with head in the air, chest puffed up and a phalanx of bodyguards, vendors would have given him a polite response, partly out of curiosity, partly out of respect and partly out of fear of the gun-toting bodyguards. Having fallen from grace, and not yet realizing it, the master practitioner of the politics of abuse expected applause but was instead on the receiving end of what he regularly dishes out to others.
The vending industry in downtown Georgetown has grown to massive proportions. For 23 years PPP/C governments did little to slow the growth of vending. No additional accommodation, save in Water Street, was provided. No rules to protect vendors, customers and the general public, were promulgated. Vending had become chaotic and posed serious environmental, health, traffic and other hazards. The inconvenience to the public and other business people was massive and growing.