I CANNOT believe what Mr. Ralph Ramkarran wrote last week in his blog titled Conversation Tree. If it is true, then I believe every person in the world, not only in Guyana would frown on that reality. As a lawyer and a home-owner, Mr. Ramkarran would be aware of what he writes. You feel you do not want to believe him. But he may be right.
He noted that since 1980, he has been paying the same rates and taxes to the City Council and that is at the same level that his father paid. That means that rates and taxes have not been increased over 60 years. Is that true? And if it is true then the reality is surreal.
Every conceivable thing; and I mean everything from a mango, banana, tooth brush, vehicle, stove, fridge, plot of land, bicycle, car insurance, medical and legal services, tuition fees, cinema ticket, clothes, house rent, etc…, the past 60 years have gone up. I repeat, everything in life, in the entire world, has gone up over the past 60 years.
Water in your home was free; it isn’t anymore. I was a fee-paying freshman at UG in 1974, the cost for education since my time has been elevated by thousands of percent. My daughter was born with teeth out of line. You would not believe how much we paid to fix it.
I went to do cataract surgery at a private hospital. After the detection of cataract, the date was fixed for the operation, then as I was about to come out of the ophthalmologist’s chair, he said he detected something in the eye that would need laser application before I do the surgery. He did it there and then. It lasted three minutes.
Maybe you don’t believe the time frame. It was three minutes and I paid $72,000. Now if three minutes cost me $72,000, do you want to know how much the actual cataract surgery cost? I won’t reveal the figure because you are going to describe me a wealthy person when in fact I am a church mouse. How could any country allow home owners to pay the same rates and taxes as they did in 1970?
It is just impossible for that situation to still exist. I am a home-owner and I would not like for an increase in rates and taxes to be a burden on me, but fundamental decency in the human, the possession of a conscience in a human would not allow me to oppose an increase in rates and taxes for Georgetown. No decent person who goes through life with moral standards should oppose such an increase.
What the City Council, the Local Government Commission and the Guyana Government should do is to implement a means-test when an increase is decided on so lower income folks and pensioners are not burdened. But an increase should find acceptance from every citizen in Guyana.
Mr. Ramkarran noted that both the City Council and the government do not want to antagonise ‘Georgetowners’ by raising rates and taxes. This does not make sense to me. All the people who reside in Georgetown have seen fantastic rise in the prices of things they have used over the past 65 years, so why would they be antagonised if rates and taxes are included?
‘Georgetowners’ pay far more for goods and services in every conceivable realm the past 40 years. Why would hiking rates and taxes get them angry?
There should be a meeting of the mind between City Council and the Guyana Government to eradicate this abominable aberration. The key route is to take consultation as wide as possible. The list should include the three arms of business administration— Private Sector Commission, Guyana Manufacturing Association, Chamber of Commerce— the opposition parties not only the major PNC, the trade union movement, real estate groups, and civil society organisations.
Could there be a situation where a stakeholder would say that they do not accept an increase in rates and taxes which, according to Mr. Ramkarran has been at the same level since the 1970s. Can one justify denying an increase in rates and taxes? I can see one instance- rate-payers saying that City Council will go on a spending spree.
The City Council has a terrible track record. The site and sight on Merriman Mall at Bourda where Church Street meets Vlissengen Road is testimony to the massive failure of the City Council. However, no berating of City Council could justify a rejection of increase of rates and taxes. I end with reference to my column of Sunday, January 31, 2021 in which the mayor and deputy told me that over 50 per cent of property owners do not pay rates and taxes.