THE central issue is whether this Friday, 18th March, 2016 is about empowering councillors to identify problems and implement programmes and projects to improve the living conditions of the communities, as President Granger has claimed (Chronicle, March 11, 2016).There are two levels to interpret economic empowerment: (a) elected councillors must be willing, and (b) able to offer solutions to wide-ranging problems that are common to the communities, such as the right to be secure in one’s home and property, flooding, and the improved utilization of local resources for the benefit of the communities.
Elected councillors have always been, and continue to focus on, only the first part of economic empowerment, which is identifying problems and informing the central government in Georgetown.
Councillors don’t have the decision-making ability to tax and spend funds. The communities are not self-financing. The taxing and spending power is centralized by the Ministry of Communities, which will allocate funding for the successful completion of projects that residents voted for.
While councillors are directly elected by the communities, they are not directly accountable, except for the political party.
This type of taxation without direct representation is evident from Article 71, where Parliament shall provide a countrywide system of NDCs and municipalities as part of the political organizations of the state. Hence, the communities are seen as political and administrative agencies of Georgetown.
It must also be mentioned that the members of Parliament are hand-picked by the political party. They are not elected by the people, though they are charged with the responsibility to make decisions for the communities.
This type of political control of the communities can be traced to the former PNC administration, in which only one LGE was held in 1974 over the period 1964-1992.
Under the then PPP administration, 1992-2015, there was also one LGE in 1997, but with reasonable explanation. The APNU+AFC, the then opposition party, agreed to postpone subsequent LGE until the necessary pieces of legislation had been enacted to transfer economic power to the communities. This lack of decision-making of local councillors prompted the PPP administration to enact the first four of five pieces of legislation with the intent to empower the communities as listed below: (a) Local Authorities Amendment Act of 2009, (b) The Municipal and District Council Amendments Act of 2013, (c) The Fiscal Transfer Act of 2013, (d) The Local Government Commission Act of 2013, and (e) The Local Government Amendment Act of 2015.
So the APNU+AFC’s allegation of the PPP’s failure to hold LGE is untrue. President Granger administration’s promise to empower the communities is yet to be seen. The APNU+AFC rise to power is premised on offering improved security to the local residents. Instead, over the past nine months, the local communities lived in fear, with repeated killings and robberies, especially in Region 6. Police presence is almost non-existent; often, they showed up after the crime took place. Thus, without adequate protection to lives and property, LGE will not improve the living conditions of the communities. The increased incidents of crime, lack of job opportunities, and the misuse of community resources will continue as usual under the APNU+AFC administration.
Dr. Dev Rawana