City's financial outlook grim - Deputy Mayor City Council Round-Up
with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
February 23, 2004

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Deputy Mayor Robert Williams who is also chairman of the city council's Finance Committee has described the municipality's financial outlook as "very grim".

He has been presiding over a number of meetings of the committee putting the finishing touches to the 2004 budget.

A report of the last meeting of the committee, which came before a full meeting of councillors earlier this month was sent back for reconsideration after two councillors raised strong objections to certain parts of the original report, saying that some of its conclusions did not reflect what transpired during the last meeting of the committee when they participated.

People's Progressive Party/C councillor Fitzgerald Agard who heads his party's group on the council explained that he had walked out of the Finance Committee's meeting out of frustration since it was apparent that some officers had not provided the necessary answers to questions of a financial nature.

People's National Congress Reform councillor Junior Garrett also recorded his strong objection to the quality of the information which was provided by the city treasure's department. He said as a member of the committee the figures supplied did little to assist in reaching any sensible conclusions.

The committee's chairman complained about the lack of reliable information from the city treasurer's department while noting that there seems to be problems within this department which must be resolved as quickly as possible.

A summary of the council's financial position reveals that liabilities for last year are $260M. For 2004 the employment cost will be $934M, with administrative costs set at $268M.

The revenue budget for this year has been estimated at $1.55 billion.

The council may have to seek the government's help in such areas as roads, outstanding sums to the Guyana Power and Light Inc., solid waste management, Day Care and Maternal Child Welfare Services and an increase in the subvention.

The committee's chairman is working on a budget date for early next month.

The Promenade Gardens future

City 'fathers' and 'mothers' continue to haggle over an offer from the National Bank of Industry and Commerce (NBIC) to return the Promenade Gardens to its former glory. The Bank wants to manage the nursery and provide its own staff while the council is being asked to be responsible for security.

NBIC intends to spend $24M, in the first instance. The argument against is that the Promenade Garden is part of the national heritage and only the citizens have the right to "hand it over". But Mayor Hamilton Green and his deputy are in favour of the bank's proposal arguing that over the years the municipality has not been able to maintain the high standards which were once in evidence.

Councillor Garrett, an accountant by profession, wondered whether some of his fellow councilors really understand how business people operate, deploring the foot-dragging by the council on the offer which was made earlier in the year. "This has to do with enhancing the city‚€¦", he added.

At the last statutory meeting a proposal signed by the deputy city engineer was circulated among councillors titled‚€¦ Proposal for upgrading the Promenade Gardens‚€¦ included in the plan is the construction of an ice cream parlour in the Garden which would be franchised out. The amount being suggested for implementation is nearly $26M‚€¦ yet another pipe dream.

A special meeting to further discuss the NBIC offer last week failed to arrive at a conclusion on the way forward.

Better late than never

Following the mishandling of the reconstruction of the Mohamed's Enterprise building on Lombard Street the council has now agreed on a new building plan for Georgetown.

This discussion was not only prompted by the Mohammed's fiasco but also what is taking place at the corner of Camp and Charlotte streets.

Councillors are still to get details on the construction of the building including the number of storeys on the plan.

The chairman of the city works committee councillor Llewellyn John told the last sitting of the council that from the foundation works the building could be four storeys high.

After in-depth debate over the new trend of unauthorised buildings being constructed in the city a motion by deputy mayor Williams was passed dealing with structures being built beyond 3 storeys.

Applications for such buildings must be accompanied by a technical assessment from a recognised engineering consultancy, among other documents.

Etcetera

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Councillors are still pursuing their pension plan demands despite warnings from the mayor and deputy that care should be taken in such an approach where it could turn out that most of those now sitting around the horseshoe-shaped table would not be around to benefit.

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The civic reception arranged by the council for Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez could be described as a success‚€¦ despite two slips by the town clerk which are understandable in the circumstances‚€¦stand and take a bow Hoppo. I hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a note to the young woman who was the interpreter at the reception... It was a job well done