The campaign against the unilateral and undemocratic imposition of parking meters in Georgetown is at last bearing fruit. The Government has been persuaded to intervene and had asked the City Council to suspend the operation of the contract until a renegotiation of its terms can be effected. At a time when the Government has been taking criticism for being indecisive, it has shown commendable resolve in this matter, even though a bit late.
The campaign against the parking metes was sustained by the outrage of citizens at the exorbitant charges imposed. These charges are simply not affordable by most of the people who are employed in Georgetown and travel to work in their motor cars. The same case that has been made by teachers at Bishops High and staffers at the Bank of Guyana, who were given free parking by Smart City Solutions (SCS), applies to most others.
For over 50 years State authorities have continually lamented that Guyana has one of the highest percentage of road deaths in the world. Little or nothing of any substance has ever been done to reduce road accidents because, to be cynical, there are no votes in it and foreign pressure is not applied. Trafficking in persons and money laundering receive funding and national attention because if they do not, sanctions are applied to Guyana. Since road deaths do not attract sanctions by aid donors, they will continue to escalate unless another type of sanction is applied, namely, massive public pressure mobilized against the authorities to do something about it.
In the 1970s and 1980s enforcement of laws by the Police was routine. Taxi drivers were charged for smoking while driving or driving with unclean clothing. Overload taxis and private hire operating illegally as taxis were relentlessly pursued. There were no speed guns but drivers who were caught speeding were charged with careless driving. The owners or drivers of private cars were not spared. Not stopping at major roads, careless and dangerous driving and other jeopardies faced motorists. Cyclists knew that they were taking chances if they rode without brakes, a bell or without a headlamp at night. If caught charges were inevitable. Quick justice was once administered when I was caught by a plainclothes policeman riding without a light just as it was getting dark. He took out the valve stem from one wheel and threw it away. Even with a more effective enforcement regime at that time and far less vehicles on the road, road deaths were among the highest in the world.
The City Council announced last week that it would take the traffic situation in hand. It is unlikely that the City Council would have known that funds would be allocated in the budget for this purpose. After disastrous past experiences, the City Council should not be allowed to preside over parking arrangements for mini bus and taxi parks in the city. The Municipal and District Councils Act gives it no such power. It is a Police function, which appears to have been abandoned, as the City Council assumed jurisdiction.
Starting from the core area outside Stabroek market, occupied by the yellow Motor Transport buses between the 1950s and 1970s, mini bus and taxi parks expanded. Between Avenue of the Republic and Water Street they occupied from Hadfield Street to Regent Street, from the National Assembly to the Bank of Baroda with the bulk in the Stabroek Market/Demico House and the Regent Street/Commerce Street areas. About ten years ago the City Council decided to further expand these areas for use by mini buses and taxis.