City should cater for growing suburbs
-public forum on development plan hears
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
January 15, 2003

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Georgetown like most cities around the world can continue to expect increased demands on its infrastructure and services as people move from the country and into urban and suburban areas in search of jobs.

This was the unifying theme expressed by some 25 businesses and organisations which made proposals as part of a Public Forum on the city's business development plan hosted by the Georgetown municipality at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday.

The municipality listened to a number of recommendations along with pledges of support from local and international agencies for the five-year plan. Among the recommendations were the expansion of the city's revenue base through initiatives such as a tax on containers, a gasoline tax; the provision of car parks; and improving services. Some of these ideas have been discussed for a number of years at other fora including the City Council.

The main concerns raised were environmental issues such as flooding, solid-waste disposal, squatting, littering, vending and security and zoning. The creation and removal of current minibus and car parks from the Stabroek Market area and the removal of the Georgetown Prisons from the city-centre were also discussed.

Town Clerk Beulah Williams said certain issues were non-negotiable including the protection of the city's environment; safe drinking- water; basic infrastructure; the maintenance of peace and security; the promotion of investment in the city; disaster-preparedness; the promotion of communications; the promotion of academic and cultural exchanges among local groups; and the promotion of women's rights. City Mayor Hamilton Green delivered the main address while Deputy Mayor Robert Williams chaired the session.

In a brief overview, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Phulander Kandhai noted that the consultation by all stakeholders in the business plan emerged as a pre-condition to the US$25M Urban Development Plan (UDP) which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Kandhai noted that the UDP had a long gestation period starting way back in 1990 and finally took shape with the disbursement of funds last August. The project's final disbursement is due in March 2004. Funding for the second phase of the programme will depend on the performance of the first phase.

He and other speakers noted the drift to the urban centres and the responsibilities placed on the city by its suburban and outlying communities which depend on the city's services including that of solid-waste management.

Meanwhile, Maurice Alarie, who is currently co-ordinating the Guyana Municipal Governance Programme (GMGP), which he introduced at the forum said that some Cdn$6M was available to the GMGP which is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Outlining the GMGP, Alarie said the project by the governments of Guyana and Canada was intended to help this country to foster good governance and reduce poverty as well as develop sustainable communities.

The programme will be implemented by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). A local office has already been set up. The FCM is an association of 1,000 members including large cities, small urban and rural communities and provincial associations in Canada. The FCM will be able to draw on a deep pool of staff, members and network for the required expertise.

Berkeley Wickham of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph company and some other presenters noted that Georgetown in recent times has suffered from haphazard development and argued that proper zoning was pivotal to the city's business plan and development.

Leon Dickson of the Guyana Post Office Corpora-tion noted the need for proper street-naming and for lot- numbers especially in new housing schemes.

Clinton Williams of the Guyana National Industrial Co using aspects of his company's own strategic business plan, made a presentation to give an idea of how various agencies were involved in the planning as well as how to include the community in decisions.

Philomena Sahoye-Shury of the PPP/C saw the need for the city council to establish project-implementation and project-monitoring units to effectively execute and assess their projects.

Noting that Georgetown has grown from 2.5 square miles to 15 square miles, Sahoye-Shury said that the strategic business plan needed to consider not only old Georgetown but the new areas as well.

She felt that there was need to review the operations of all the city's markets and improve on them. She suggested that Bourda Green should become a double-decker market; the Central Fire Station next to Stabroek market needs to be relocated; the Ruimveldt market should be upgraded to a shopping mall; and conditions too at the La Penitence market need to be upgraded. Vending done on streets in the vicinity of the municipal markets also becomes a traffic hazard. She contended that the La Penitence market was an eyesore for visitors coming from the airport on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The Sussex Street canal was also a disaster waiting to happen, she warned.

Vincent Alexander of the PNCR felt that the `business' plan was misleading being drafted against the background of the government's Greater Georgetown Development Plan which speaks largely of physical infrastructure and not capacity building. He advised that in the drafting of the plan, reforms in local government legislation be considered.

He urged that the city consider the issue of representation by wards and the widening of the city's revenue base. Alexander also recommended the out-sourcing of services by the council, as was done with garbage-collection. He said the role of the city police should be reviewed, as to whether it should be expanded or not, in view of the current crime situation and the impact it is having on businesses in the city.

Pledging that the private sector would give whatever resources and technical advice it could, Max Pereira of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Private Sector Commission, noted the need for proper street-lighting and security especially in the business areas. He also supported the idea of moving industries away from the city.

Robert Forrester of the University of Guyana stressed the need to consider the young people in the business plan and Faye Clarke of the Guyana Prison Service noted the recommendation to move the prisons out of the city but said that it would not happen in the next five years.

Among others making presentations were representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Guyana Training Agency and the Central Housing and Planning Authority. Red Thread noted the demands on women in earning a livelihood and provisions not being in place to meet their needs.

The Traffic Department of the Guyana Police Force pointed to the need for traffic and place-signs in the city. The Guyana Council of Churches also called for zoning so that the activities of churches are not in conflict with the communities they serve.

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