THE Budget 2023 and its estimates under the theme, “Improving Lives Today, Building Prosperity for Tomorrow,” provide overwhelming evidence of the PPP/C government’s commitment to a magnanimous and accelerated strengthening of governance matters on the local front.
These pledges send a clear message of the government’s intention to “Walk the Walk” in the delivery of improvements worthy of mention.
Please permit me to highlight a few noteworthy areas from a cursory examination of the myriad committed plans and interventions projected for this fiscal year. These concern the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Ministry of Local Government as key supporting evidence.
The PPP/C government’s recent 2023 budget, generously recommends financial allocations of G$5.2 billion for the use of GECOM.
Notably, these provisions came into play following significant allocations since 2021, when G$1.8 billion was provided, followed by a revised G$2.9 billion in 2022.
It is quite obvious that fulfilling the financial requirements of GECOM ought to provide a critical supporting platform for the competent runoff of the institution’s programmes.
At the same time, it is anticipated that the established legal mechanisms would ensure the removal of obstacles to the efficiency of our democratic processes.
Consequently, the allocations can be considered very generous, particularly against the backdrop of a dire need for an audit of the institution’s accounts.
The financial transactions and all the necessary audits at GECOM are in arrears for almost 10 years. It is anticipated that with a new Chief Executive Officer, genuine efforts would have been put in place to get the GECOM audit updated.
Those former senior staff members who are before the courts for fraud and corruption must answer for the massive spending that took place at GECOM.
Our government must be complimented for this bold move given the bigger picture, while not losing sight of the obligatory requirements that will contribute to the highest levels of transparency required from GECOM officials.
The fact is that local governance and the local government systems are essential parts of Guyana’s governance. Given that Local Government Elections were last held in 2018, it is now way overdue. As such, GECOM must hold Local Government Elections without further delays.
Coupled with addressing GECOM support and requirements, is the need to strengthen a degenerated local government system which is publicly attested to at the highest level of the PPP/C government.
President, Dr Irfaan Ali, in a recent interview before the budget, said: “For long, we have seen what mismanagement can do in townships, and in some municipalities, some areas.”
He also made a “call upon all Guyanese to work in renewing our effort at building the governance system, building our communities, strengthening our communities, but importantly, our municipalities and our townships.”
Further, President Ali said his government would spare no effort to work with every community and municipality in bringing together a team reflective of the “One Guyana” agenda.
“A team that will promote development, a team that will work integrally with the regional governance system and a central government to ensure that our development takes place not only at a rapid and efficient pace, but development, brings people together that are in development, strengthen our communities and that better services are delivered to our communities.”
It is no surprise that the foregoing intent and necessity were clearly articulated by Senior Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh in his 2023 budget speech.
He states: “In 2020, we inherited a lethargic system encouraged by the former government and practised by some Local Democratic Organs (LDOs). Our government has long recognized that robust local government architecture and systems support more sustainable communities.”
Consequently, the 2023 budget targets and moves to catalyze the strengthening of local governance through the injection of $18.9 billion for the Local Government Ministry. This represents approximately an 83 per cent increase over the G$10 billion appropriated in 2022, allowing for the implementation of several impacting developmental community projects.
According to the budget presented, examples of highlights in 2023 include works to be advanced at markets in Charity, Parika, Leonora, and Mon Repos.
It also includes continuance of the National Pathway Workers Project and maintenance of the Community Enhancement Workers Programme, employing over 12,000 persons and improving infrastructure, sanitary and environmental conditions.
Editor, there is no doubt that the upcoming LGEs will serve as a reminder of the PPP/C government’s commitment to good governance and transparency across every community, and will provide much-needed renewal to the local government system.
With the massive allocation for the holding of LGEs, GECOM must uphold its mandate and hold the elections to strengthen local democracy.
The present process of continuous registration seems to be going smoothly. Both the category ‘A’ and the category ‘B’ citizens are making full use of the opportunity to get registered The government recognises and delivered on its commitments, and the budget will certainly help to establish a realistic platform to guarantee a better life for our people.