Cabinet’s intervention in parking meter saga


AS with any society, Guyana is not without setbacks and conflicts amongst its people and the people and their government, irrespective of the tier. But as with any society where the people and government take interest in ensuring harmonious relations and the effective functioning of institutions of state, such are never achieved without being honest with self.
It is not unfair to say that in our culture there is a belief that troubling issues will correct themselves, as though by a hidden hand, without playing a role to influence resolution. The other thinking is that people will grow tired of the issue, abandon it, or switch attention. These have never worked. Resignation to an issue does not bring about resolution or disinterest on the part of the people in their government, or the institutions established to manage their affairs.
The initial rejection by the citizenry and business community of Georgetown to the installation of the parking meters, the essence behind their reaction is being missed by the City Fathers and Mothers. It is befuddling that after continuous rejection, calls to scrap the project and proffered opinions to listen to and treat the people with deserving respect, have eluded the Council.
The sage advice that it is not what you do, but how you do it is being ignored. City Hall has not only shut out the public’s view, but also the diverse views around its horseshoe table, litigations before the court, condemnation by the Alliance For Change (a member of the governing coalition), President David Granger’s concern, or input of the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, who has responsibility for local government.
While there is no intent to dwell on the aforesaid, it cannot escape attention that the only voice that seems to matter in the saga is that of Smart City Solutions (SCS), as though City Hall is beholden to it and a few in this body feel compelled to toe the line. Cabinet this week decided to have the Minister of Communities recommend to the Council a three-month suspension of the project and to use that time to consult with the people. It can only be hoped, given experience of the aforesaid, that good sense will now prevail. The city government has to realise that consideration needs to be given that Georgetown is the capital of Guyana and also the seat of the national government. Any decision being made that could incur the wrath of citizens, the input and consideration of national government to refocus attention becomes a requirement.
It would help to know whether the Council before taking a decision on the project conducted a social- impact analysis. None would deny the council has to source revenue to perform its functions and this could be a shared responsibility, but it helps if Council could see Georgetown as much more than buildings and roads. The city is also about people, those who are resident and those who come into it to work and transact business.
Government’s decision indicates that it is no longer prepared to take a hands-off approach, but recognises the need to get involved in steering itself and the Council from a major collision with the people who represent the country’s largest demographic. Though the possibility exists that the investor may resent such intervention and this should not be ignored, it would help not to ignore that the consequences of soured relations between government and the people, the SCS will take no responsibility for. Government and the city council have to be firm in upholding their responsibility to the citizenry. This is a matter for the people and their elected representatives to work out and build a trustworthy relationship in a congenial atmosphere, which is necessary to arrive at consensus. In this the SCS should not be involved.