Forum looks at Georgetown Business Development Plan
By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
January 15, 2003

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THE Mayor and City Council in collaboration with the Urban Development Programme (UDP) yesterday held a public forum at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on a Business Development Plan for the capital Georgetown.

The forum attracted widespread participation from a number of stakeholders from Government and non-governmental organisations.

It addressed a number of issues that will allow the Georgetown and other municipalities to become self-sufficient while providing an efficient service to citizens.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Phulander Khandai in remarks during the forum, said the ministry was particularly pleased with the development of such a forum and would fully support municipalities in the discharge of their mandate for the business development plan.

He said the ultimate plan is to shape all the municipalities into corporate entities so that they could have the ability to finance, operate, maintain and expand urban infrastructure in a way that will allow sustainability.

He said the entities should be able to recover enough from whatever project they embark upon in the plan so as to make their activities viable.

The business plan has emerged as a pre-condition for the US$25M UDP which was initiated in 1990 but finally took shape in the year 2000.

Khandai said the final disbursement for the programme is in March 2004.

However, an extension phase of that project would depend on how well the current phase is done.

"There could be no short cut here. For us to sustain ourselves in the city and elsewhere at every sphere of local governance, we must build the capacity and develop the institutional framework to allow us to manage business as business is managed", Khandai emphasised.

He said that a vital two-prong aspect of the programme is institutional development and valuation reform. The institutional development entails the building of capacity in the municipality to train staff in the use of modern technology and modern management methods to operate in a globalised world.

Khandai, however, admitted that training will not be an easy task, given the "brain drain" and the loss of very vital people at all levels of management.

He said it will take the cooperative efforts of those persons remaining to realise the institutional reshaping.

"This whole business of urban renewal has vital importance for our existence as a country and success in the future."

He said urban renewal can no longer remain on the back burner to curb the rural to urban drift, which has being occurring rapidly, bombarding the already weakened resources of the urban centre.

In order to anticipate the challenge that would be presented in wake of this development, there would be need to take on board all the available resources from all sectors and all agencies and organisations in the quest, he pointed out.

Khandai said although many people may say that "Georgetown is not Guyana", the city represents one third of the country's population and is the centre for everything national.

Therefore it is important that Georgetown be brought into focus when developing a business plan for the six municipalities.

He pointed out that the lead has already been taken in municipalities such as Anna Regina, Corriverton, Rose Hall, New Amsterdam and to a lesser extent, ,Linden. All these towns are involved in shaping a business plan in one form or another.

The business plan of the municipality must eventually seek to allow it to operate as a modern corporate entity, the official said.

It must be responsible for widening its revenue base. One example, he said, is a proposed new property valuation reform formula.

He said if common ground could be found on such issues with the relevant stakeholders, this will go a far way in helping to broaden the revenue base of the city.

Town Clerk Ms. Beulah Williams noted that trade liberalisation, which is likely to benefit developed countries could at the same time increase the vulnerability of developing and poor countries like Guyana.

She said that in the end, these changes affect and in indirect ways influence the development of cities and their local communities.

Williams, on that note said it is therefore critical for local authorities and stakeholders to collaborate and cooperate not only to improve conditions but also to develop their cities, to a level where they can compete with others.

She emphasised that coming out of the forum, plans and visions for organisations and agencies will be taken into account in the city business plan.

Williams said that to determine the character of Georgetown, whether it be industrial, administrative, a tourism facility, or a combination of all, the prerequisite to attempts to set priorities in specific areas would require certain non-negotiables.

These include protection of the city's environment, the provision of safe drinking water and basic infrastructure, the maintenance of peace and security, the promotion of investment in the city, the promotion of disaster preparedness, and the promotion of communication, academic and cultural exchanges among local groups.

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