Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said Government is not inclined to provide a $600M “bailout” for City Hall. The money that the Georgetown municipality seeks is to assist the cash-strapped town to meet expenses and pay creditors.
However, according to a report from the Government Information Agency (GINA), Minister Bulkan said Government will not bailout the municipality. The Minister was speaking at an engagement with the Mayors and Councillors of the three municipalities in Berbice on Friday last.
“This $600M bailout that we all have read about in the newspapers, where that particular council is looking for that support, what I can say…and from my own understanding and the limited current engagement that I have had with colleagues in the administration, is that, I do not think that there is any appetite on the part on the central government to be favourably disposed towards that request,” Minister Bulkan was quoted as saying by GINA.
The Communities Minister said that what may occur instead is that Central Government may encourage City Hall to seek commercial sources of financing.
“The response of central government may very well be along the lines of telling the Municipality to think like a corporation, so I believe the Georgetown council would be encouraged, that there are commercial sources that they can approach,” Minister Bulkan said.
The Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown, at a recent statutory meeting, had passed a motion for the council to assemble a delegation to approach the Communities Minister for a $600M bailout.
According to the GINA report, during the meeting in Berbice, the councillors had raised the concern that Georgetown seems to be the only council enjoying the largesse of central government. It was noted that Mayor of New Amsterdam, Kurt Wynter had voiced the concern that City Hall would have received from Central Government $300M, just after the General and Regional Election of May 2015 and would soon be asking for $600M more. He noted this, whilst pointing out that his municipality is still to hear from the Government on the approximately $137M proposal it submitted, to help cover the restoration of the drainage infrastructure in New Amsterdam.
Wynter called for Central Government to “stop focusing all its attention on Georgetown and to start focusing on the other municipalities,” noting that “Georgetown is not Guyana.”
Minister Bulkan however, advised Wynter and the other Region Six municipal councillors present at the engagement that instead of bailout, the administration had adopted a plan to begin weaning the municipalities off Central Government’s support, for financing their works. He told the councillors that the municipalities are now being advised to start functioning like corporations that generate the wealth needed to meet their operational cost.
“I think that business consideration that our councils are being urged to bring, that business mindset, beginning in Georgetown would do a lot to drive efficiency and improvement within the management of councils,” the Minister said.
“So honourable Mayors, I do not want you to feel that Central Government is just going to push their hands in the kitty and keep bailing out Georgetown, and you are going to be left on your own, we are going to try to be consistent with the message and not discriminate,” he said.
Minister Bulkan has been meeting with Regional officials, municipal councillors and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils’ (NDC) officials, to listen to their concerns and to, work together to identify ways of addressing them. The meeting in Berbice was a continuation of this exercise.