GCCI was never in support of parking meters – Doerga

calls for contract to be scrapped in favour of better terms and conditions

The Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase Green, has stated that she has the majority of the business community on her side in favour of parking meters in the city. But a second major representative of the business community has come out

Anti-parking meter protesters stood in solidarity before chaos ensued
Anti-parking meter protesters stood in solidarity before chaos ensued

against the initiative, citing the lack of transparency and declining commerce.

President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Vishnu Doerga, made it clear in an interview with Guyana Times that his Chamber has been against the manner in which the project was introduced from the beginning.

One objection he raised was with the unreleased contract, noting that it should be scrapped to make way for a better solution. The businessman also pointed out that the 80/20 per cent profit sharing mechanism is not in the city’s best interest.

“Since the initial interactions with the Mayor and City Council, since mid-last year, we would have expressed our dissatisfaction with the way in which the project was (rolled out). The need for parking meters we do agree with, but the lack of transparency, the lack of public procurement process, is something that is going to add a burden on the citizenry.”

“For the Mayor and City Council to derive 20 per cent of that, we believe is not the best option for Georgetown. In that respect, we are calling for the contract to be withdrawn and re-tendered in a transparent manner to arrive at a much better solution.”

Doerga also related that businesses have complained about a drop in sales since the parking meters took effect. Some, he stated, have reported declining sales of various amounts but the figures collated amounted to a 50 per cent slump.

“The most common response we are getting is a 50 per cent drop, because people don’t take their time to go looking for purchases anymore. And then they don’t spend as much time in stores anymore. So it doesn’t allow for businesses to sell their products.”

Lack of consultation

The GCCI’s stance follows that of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) which has stated that there was a marked lack of consultation with the project. The Commission had called for the project to be quashed and had urged the Government to intervene in the impasse.

In a statement, the PSC stated it has received impassioned pleas from the business community, which has seen a 50 per cent drop in sales since the introduction of paid parking.

The PSC had also blasted the M&CC for displaying “unmatched arrogance in their refusal to engage businesses in any attempt to compromise and mitigate the ill effects of this scheme.”

The PSC had also pointed out that citizens, who would after all bear the full brunt of the measures, have clearly shown their objections to the by-laws and the parking meter initiative itself.

It was also noted that in an integrated economy like Guyana’s, the success or failure of one sector would result in spin-off effects affecting the country as a whole in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This, the PSC had noted, is a fact that the Government was aware of.

The Commission also questioned whether the local government organs are free to make policy decisions which run counter to the national interest.

The fact that two of Guyana’s major business representatives have raised an outcry against the parking meter project being implemented, belies Mayor Chase Green’s pronouncement during the first anti-parking meter protest on Friday, February 3, that she had the business community on her side. “They have not complained to us. The business people have approached us for some of the packages that we are offering them, so I can say I have the majority of the business people on my side,” The Mayor had declared, as she defended the parking meters.

A newly formed lobby group made up of concerned citizens – the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) – has consistently called for an economic boycott of the meters. In addition, many, including the protesters have already complained of the injustices meted out against them from employees of the parking meter company.

For instance, some have complained of parking meter officials clamping their vehicles before their time has expired and that 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) is still being charged, even as the new tax regime reduced it by two per cent.