Towns to reform property tax system
Guyana Chronicle
January 29, 2002

`If people don't pay where would the municipality find money to provide services? And if the municipality doesn't provide services, people don't want to pay. So somewhere you have to make a break in that vicious cycle...' - Judith Wiley, Urban Development Programme
By Jaime Hall

AS UPGRADING of the country's six towns continues under the Urban Development Programme (UDP), institutional strengthening of municipalities and Central Government agencies is being pursued to ensure wider revenue collection.

The institutional strengthening will address, among other things, property tax assessment reform and development - a key component of the programme, UDP Project Manager/Team Leader, Capacity Building, Ms. Judith A. Wiley outlined yesterday.

At a presentation at the Main Street Plaza Hotel in Georgetown, she, however, said property tax valuation would not be implemented until the 2003 municipal budget.

"What we are doing now is the field work in order to measure the various properties in the six municipalities and enter the data in the Computer Aided Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system," she explained.

Field work is being carried out at Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall, Corriverton, Linden and Anna Regina.

Wiley explained that the CAMA system is being used extensively in North America and to some extent in Europe. She said that what is being brought here is unique and sophisticated and will put Guyana at the leading edge of property tax valuation.

In conjunction with institutional strengthening, valuation will become the municipal tax base for municipalities. This aspect of the programme is being carried out initially at Anna Regina, New Amsterdam and Georgetown.

Under it, municipal employees are being trained in technical assistance, particularly in financing and budgeting, so that the very scarce resources the municipalities have can be used to their maximum effect, she said.

"That would link (with) preparation for the 2003 municipal budget when we expect that the municipalities would have more income. However, I don't want citizens of Guyana to get nervous and think that all their property rates are going to go up.

"We don't expect that they will. What we expect is that more people will pay".

Wiley said that there would be a definite widening of revenue collection when valuation is done to the many new properties that have never been valued, and those that were redeveloped.

She attributed a lapse in such valuation to the lack of appropriate technology and other resources in the Valuation Division within the Ministry of Finance.

Wiley said that the institutional strengthening from which such agencies would soon benefit would allow the citizens of Guyana to have more services from their municipalities.

The property valuation and institutional strengthening and the public education component will begin to make the linkage between the delivery of services and the payment of rates and taxes.

Already there has been significant development in infrastructure across the six municipalities, such as roads, drainage and markets and in the next stage, some abattoirs will be upgraded. Substantial services that are important to the daily lives of citizens are being delivered, she said.

"If people don't pay where would the municipality find money to provide services? And if the municipality doesn't provide services, people don't want to pay. So somewhere you have to make a break in that vicious cycle, and the Urban Development Programme is attempting to do that," Wiley said.

Coordinator of the Project Execution Unit, Mr. Edgar Kendall, in remarks at the presentation, noted that the tax reform system will lift the dependence of municipalities on the Government for project subventions. He said the sums allocated are inadequate to fully equip the municipalities to carry out their programmes.

Outlining projects that are to be done under stage two of the UDP phase one projects, Kendall said contracts are already out for bidding to build 20 new roads.

The roads are to be built within Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall and Corriverton. He said a market and municipal ferry port will be built at New Amsterdam.

Kendall said engineers are meeting with the contractors in the various municipalities to have a 'site meeting' to answer any questions that the bidders may have and making any clarifications necessary. Bidding would close by February 9 and the projects are likely to begin within a month.

The UDP is a US$25M joint venture between the Government of Guyana and the Inter-American Development Bank that runs for five years, executing major infrastructure development in the six municipalities.