Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme3380 14 Mar, 2013
Mr. G. Persaud: I rise to make my contribution to this motion, but before I do so, Mr. Speaker, permit me please to clear up some misconceptions.
I think, maybe, information, which was shared, suggested that research was missing, for example the issue of holding of Local Government Elections. Just one month ago all of us here, in this Assembly, discussed and went through all of the reasons why Local Government Elections which were - I should correct - not nineteen years in waiting, because the last Local Government Elections were held in 1994,… and so it was constitutionally due in 1997. That is the first bit of math that we need to get right. [Mr. Ramjattan: You do not know to count.] Well, maybe.
The second bit is that the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government is willing and ready to hold Local Government Elections, but because of our belief in consensus, because of our belief in putting Guyana first we sought to make sure that the major players, their views are taken on board.
It bothers me that I have to use the House’s time to repeat something that was said, and I think abundantly clear, only one month ago that in 2010 the PPP/C Government was moving at a rapid pace in getting Local Government Elections being held. It was the intervention of the Opposition political party that saw a process which consumed significant sums of Guyana dollars, taxpayers’ dollars, already expended towards holding that elections and the claims and objections period was the end of that exercise. Sometimes standing up, here in this House, repeating some statements…, either we are not listening, or we are not hearing what each other is saying, or we are not reading the recordings here.
Another bit: This is news to me that sixty per cent of Guyana’s population resides in the city of Georgetown. That is news; but these things, whether mistake or not, are irresponsible because they are going into the annals of our records in this country. We have to be responsible people. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Okay. What is a reasonable figure then?
Mr. G. Persaud: Well, it borders around twenty-five to twenty-eight per cent. Mr. Speaker, this place must not be a place for gaffe, we say whatever we want. We must be accurate in what we are saying here. We must bring empirical evidence to this House. That is what this place is for. This is not a street corner, Mr. Speaker. We have to make sure that we come here well armed and prepared with the facts. Mr. Speaker, thanks to your management and the support here. The nation has greater access to the information, which is shared in here, and so it beholds on each one of us here as we inform this nation that we do so with the highest degree of accuracy in mind.
The Solid Waste Management Authority Bill: Mr. Speaker, I wish to assure you that that Bill is presently at the Attorney General’s Chambers. There is an Hon. Member in this House who worked on that Bill, but it has changed in texture and content over time. The reason being was that the Bill had a narrow focus when the Hon. Member Mr. Moses Nagamootoo worked on it. Now the Bill has been delayed because of the need to include all of the various environmental and health related agencies and their input into the Solid Waste Management Authority Bill. That will come. It is a work in progress and it will come.
If I may, now, focus on the motion in front of us, the fourth WHEREAS clause clearly states that the city of Georgetown, or the Municipality of Georgetown, has an elected body that is vested with statutory authority to manage the affairs of this city. It has a number of areas that fall under the responsibility of that city. I am not sure whether we need a motion, at this point in time, to really move the restoration of the city of Georgetown because we had started, in the PPP/C Government, this activity a number of years now. The problem is that because the council has this vested statutory authority it can determine its level of participation and non-participation in activities that we are seeking to do.
I will give you two examples, Mr. Speaker. In November of 2012, as of usual, it was the time for our Christmas clean-up, so myself and colleague Minister invited the other Ministries – Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture - and we sat down… [Mr. Ali: …and the private sector] … the private sector and municipality of Georgetown, our city. There was one representative from the Mayor and City Council, Georgetown, because the Mayor found it important to summon a meeting of the major staff at the same time. We went through the bit of cleaning up the city and all that we got, as input from the city, was one tractor and trailer. An Hon. Member alluded to the cleaning up exercise for Mash in 2013. Here again, the city was invited and all that it could have brought to the table is a list of equipment and machinery which it has but those could not have helped in any process.
This WHEREAS clause states very clearly that the legal statutory authority for the management of this city rests with the Georgetown City Council. I have heard it being bantered around here, “What the Ministers of Local Government are doing?” We are conscious and law-abiding Ministers. We stick to the law. We do not meddle and interfere. We do not breach people’s authority. Maybe that is a reason why the city continues to slide. I am happy too that we can reminisce as to what this city looked like. It is unfortunate that the destructions started since the present council took over and it has continued, and it is accelerating. [Mrs. Backer: Of which Mr. Hamilton was a Member.] It is whoever it is. I must say that there are three political parties which are part of that council. The People’s National Congress (PNC) contested that election, the People’s Progress Party (PPP) and the Good, Green, Guyana (GGG). They are there. There are thirty seats on that council. Five of those seats are occupied by the PPP, another party occupies fourteen and another, I think, eight. I am not certain about that.
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order…
Mr. Speaker: One second Mr. Minister. There is a Point of Order on the floor and I need to take it.
Mrs. Backer: With configuration of the Georgetown City Council, it is twelve GGG Members, ten PNC Members and eight PPP Members. That is the configuration. It seems as though we are having another gaffe.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I uphold the Point of Order. In fact, Minister, for one who is so versed with all of the facts, I am surprised that you missed that vital fact, especially given that fact that it is under your Ministry, but the Hon. Deputy Speaker is correct. It is a twelve-ten-eight configuration.
Mr. G. Persaud: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I have not missed my facts because there are five seats presently that are occupied by… [Mrs. Backer: You have never said that.] That is what I said. Mr. Speaker, I said fourteen seats now are occupied by one party. I did not name the party. Let me now explain why it is fourteen. The elections in 1994, two of the leading players, who contested under the GGG, have actually, now, changed their slate and gone into the camp where we hear that there is a party called the PNC and there is a consolidated force that is called the APNU. What is happening is that the seats in themselves, as they were, the ten, the twelve and the eight, there is not that representation now in the council itself. As it stands, now, there are vacancies on the council, so there are not thirty persons on it.
The fourth WHEREAS clause states that there are severe under-collection of taxes. I do not know how severe is severe. I cannot quantify this here, but I can share with us to say that consistently the municipality of Georgetown has collection rates in excess of seventy-five per cent each year. How severe is this under-collection rate is another story.
We spoke about the miserly subvention and out of the subvention that is allocated to municipalities the city of Georgetown receives 30.8 per cent.
We also spoke about the Government owes the municipality. The PPP/C Government has no outstanding arrears for the municipality of Georgetown.
We have this proposal which states, “BE IT RESOLVED (i)…”, that the Government must utilise very machinery and all of the other workforce, and so on there. What this proposal has not said to us, this motion in itself, is: What will the city do with the rates and taxes that it would have collected from the citizens? I ask this question for the following reasons:
• The municipality of Georgetown is no longer doing anything with regards to road maintenance or road repairs. That is being done by the Ministry of Public Works.
• The clearing of the outfalls are no longer being done by the municipality of Georgetown, although it is its responsibilities. It is being done by the Ministry of Agriculture.
• The garbage collection: The city is divided into nine zones, seven of those zones are operated and serviced by private contractors; contracts that are awarded by the municipality. Two of those zones are the responsibility of the municipality itself, directly. Put together the number of garbage collecting equipment that the Georgetown City Council has, it is more than what the two private operators have to run the seven zones, but yet all of the problems that we have, in terms of removal the solid waste, are from those two zones that are controlled by the municipality.
If these are not mismanagement then, what is it?
• The sea wall cleaning and management: On weekends it is the assumed responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works.
• The traffic lights are the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works.
All of these are Government intervention to assist in performing what is under the task sheet of the municipality.
We heard the talks about addition revenue streams. There are some Members of this House who sat on the Local Government task force and agreed that in the Fiscal Transfers Bill all these additional revenue streams must be included and that we must not take a piecemeal approach to the bit of additional revenue streams. It is surprising to hear Members standing here and saying to us that we are denying the city from exploring alternative and other sources of revenues. It seems as if these decisions, which are taken by the key political players, are conveniently omitted from the discourse.
Solid Waste Management: The PPP/C Government of Guyana has signed an agreement with the IDB to establish the Haags Bosch landfill site. The city of Georgetown is not contributing one cent to the operation of that site. The city of Georgetown is not paying one cent tipping fee which it would have all signed on to. All of the revenues, which are generated from the solid waste stream, are detained by the city. All that the city is required to do is to collect and deposit and that seems to be a very difficult task.
[Interruption by Mr. Neendkumar]
Mr. Speaker: One second Minister. I do not know whether Mr. Neendkumar realises that he is disturbing you. I do not think it has dawned on him that it is really you that he is affecting, and it is not Mr. Nagamootoo that he is trying to get at, as it appears.
Mr. Neendkumar: [Inaudible]
Mr. Speaker: Whatever you are trying to say it has to pass your Minister and it is his speech that is being affected. Go ahead Minister.
Mr. G. Persaud: We have heard about the need to educate our citizens. We have also heard that there is indiscriminate dumping and disposal by our citizens but I will not join with those who would have sought to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the citizens of this city because if services are not provided and avenues for people to dispose of garbage are not provided, and waste in a timely manner, then people will seek alternative. That too is something that the Government has been addressing over a number of years. Early this year, through the very Government of Guyana (GoG)/IDB loan agreement, Guyenterprise was contracted, once again, to move ahead with another round of public awareness seeking to educate and to remind our citizens of our collective responsibilities with regard to our environment.
Coupled with that, Cabinet recently gave its no objection to solid waste management project to purchase a number of vehicles and receptacles, all to assist in waste collection and transportation. All of these efforts and interventions, when sum totalled, are huge investments and contributions that are being made by central Government in assisting the municipality.
What do we have? We have a tendency at the level of the municipality that once someone moves in to offer some form of assistance it moves off and then it relieves itself of its responsibilities. That has to change. If we really want to fix and restore this city we have to get to the core and source of this problem. The source of this problem is the management of this city. When it suits us the council wants to present a face as if it is powerless and toothless. That is not so. It is the council that makes and manages its budget. It is the council that collects the rates and taxes, the $1.8 billion that was collected in 2012, and it expends that. It is the council that appoints its staffs, save and except the category that houses eight or nine people, and so the eight hundred and something persons are appointed and employed by the council of itself.
One Member spoke about the need to have persons monitoring the streets. The municipality has in its employ two hundred persons who form part of its constabulary. There are resources. The question is whether there is maximal utilisation of resources.
I am saying that the Government is willing and ready and it has a structure in place. That structure comprises a number of Ministries which sit on a steering committee and addresses issues with regard of providing services to the citizens of this city. We are willing to expand that committee to include any interest group which would like to work with us. We have in that grouping the private sector, the municipality itself and a number of Government agencies. If the mover of the motion and a team would like to join us, we will welcome them and we can sit together and continue to work our plan, and even include other plans, so that we can restore the city.
Restoring the city is no doubt something we all agree to. All of us, I think, have a single commitment in that direction, but how we do it is an important aspect. We cannot say let the city collect the revenue; let the city collect the rates and taxes; let it spend it on things that are not in the interest of the citizens, the welfare and wellbeing of the citizens, and then we take taxpayers’ dollars, which can spend for other aspects of development, and put it into the city. We have to balance this thing. We have to make sure that all of us do not seek to bring a temporary solution such as the one in which some foreign country would have made an intervention into a certain part of the city. What happened? As it sustains itself… Do we still need to go into Tucville or is it is all right now - well cleared, well cleaned? I am certain that the mover of this motion is not referring to anything such as that. The mover of this motion is seeking to have a sustained intervention, so that our city can gradually retain its former glory.
We in the PPP/Civic Government, we at the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, stand ready to offer the amendments to this motion and we are hoping that the amendments would be accepted. Once the amendments are accepted, then the paper trail is finished, we can sit down to serious business and start addressing the issue.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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