With new towns added in recently Guyana is moving into the zone where the importance of urban planning has to be recognised and treated for what it is, i.e. it is both technical and political.
The identification of towns, which carries with it, demarcation of boundaries and local government points to the fact that those who are given the people’s privilege to manage their affairs are expected to do so. Recent laws added to the Local Government system provide the parameters of the scope and authority for what the councils (political and administration arms) can do. Making the laws work require visionary leadership, institutional support and strengthening. It is within this context urban planning is one of necessity if the towns are to function.
For some time this country has seen its towns in dire straits. Infrastructures like the town halls (a basic feature of a town) have been in a state of disrepair, revenue collection sporadic and unreliable, roads and drainage not properly maintained, zoning laws disregarded to name some. Based on the country’s economic circumstances internal revenue collection alone cannot sustain the town’s operation.
The impression, rightly or wrongly given is that there is an absence of planning in urban development and management. Planning would entail among other things population (size and growth), infrastructure (e.g. roads, traffic light), utilities (e.g. energy and water), transportation (e.g. public, private), social services (health, education, waste management, post office), zoning, land use, and management of resources.
The above is no easy task and requires urban planners, political will and vision working in conjunction. Urban planners will bring the technical expertise and at the political end the vision to map out objectives (short, medium and long term), including priorities and revenue sourcing. In mapping out objectives such have to be realistic, equally as doable. Residents will have to be involved not only in having their input at the planning and feedback stage, but also an understanding and appreciation for the vision in order for it to work.
Where the government has embraced the Green Economy, this also has to factor in green collar jobs. Green collar jobs are new jobs that deal with environmental protection and sustainable development consistent with respecting Labour Policies. Township also carries with it property value assessment as a determinant in revenue collection. In evaluating properties the ability of home and business owners to pay will have to be factored in. These are issues that have to addressed and determined based on the socio-economic realities of the urban residents.
Another matter of import in township is that of understanding of the role, functions and responsibilities of policy makers (i.e. elected representatives/councils) and the administrative personnel. The council is responsible for shaping policies and making the by-laws. The administrative team enforces these and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the town. At council’s meeting the Town Clerk, who is the administrative head, reports to the council on matters pertaining to management, and also any other departmental head the council summons to report. Within recent time there exists perception on the council’s part that it is responsible for day-to-day management. The conflating or misunderstanding of duties has to be addressed by the Ministry of Communities less it creates unnecessary friction between policy makers and the administrative arm, which can stymie development. The Ministry of Communities, which has responsibility for local government may have to examine its role and to what extent it will help the towns develop the necessary political finesse and acquiring the technical expertise to do its job efficiently and effectively. Outside of the older towns, which are also in need of institutional strengthening, the new towns need foundational support.