Govt to advance $100M in taxes to City Hall – President Ali

…parking, congestion in Georgetown discussed

President Irfaan Ali on Monday signalled Government’s move to make an advance payment of $100 million to City Hall, to assist the cash-strapped entity with funds to execute important projects.

President Irfaan Ali meets with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the company of his ministerial team

This revelation came after an engagement with Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine and Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentore in the company of a ministerial team comprising of Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh; Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Nigel Dharamlall and Junior Local Government Minister, Anand Persaud.
Discussions circled around a range of issues affecting City Hall, as he called for important historical sites that need to be maintained. The President said that the “city and the national heritage of the city is a reflection of ourselves” and pointed to the need for protection and preservation. Presently, the City Hall building is in ruins and in dire need of restoration. As such, the advance is expected to assist in such matters.
“These things will cost a fortune to rehabilitate. But we have to start. We will pay a sum of the Government taxes in advance towards these projects. So, we can have approval on that, so you can move that forward,” he told the Mayor.

Congestion and parking
Meanwhile, he identified issues of congestion and parking as paramount concerns, since structured systems are the hallmark of modern cities. A proposal was made for the City Council to work with the Private Sector to maintain infrastructure and construct modern parking facilities.
President Ali noted too that collaboration between Central Government and City Hall is vital in addressing key and critical issues which affect the city. He reiterated that with the major transformation expected and the impending big projects on the horizon, there will be a greater need for strengthened collaboration between Central and Local Government organs.
“How do we build a deeper, more structured relationship between what the Government does and what the city does? I understand that at the level of the Council the type of arguments that are made there, there are different political interests there, but there must be a place in which you can reach out to the Minister, and we can discuss important issues that are critical and key for the city itself,” he underscored.
Among the other areas discussed was the implementation of a “Single Window Permitting System,” which will have linkages to several key agencies and which will address issues of slothfulness. According to the Head of State, this mechanism will also address criticisms of corruption and will go a long way towards improving the investment climate in the city itself.
“We all know whether it’s the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), whether it’s the NDCs or the City Council, our greatest criticism is slothfulness in which things take time to get done in terms of approvals and so on.  And at the end of the day, it is the elected officials who get the blame. So, the first thing I think we have to do is look at a modern permitting system that integrates all…So when an application comes, it goes to everybody simultaneously.”
Using his platform, Mayor Narine reminded of challenges faced by the Council, including outstanding taxes. He said the Council is open to hearing new strategies from Government to work with the business community and deliver in a timely manner.
Following the engagement, he dubbed the discussion as fruitful and shared his intention of continued collaboration with Government. He pointed to other issues throughout their discourse, focusing on a reform for Municipal and District Councils Act (Chapter 28:01), City Hall restoration, and upgraded bylaws.
“We had numerous discussions and we are looking to work along with the Government for the development of the city and its people. The President has committed on numerous discussions and now we have to reach with the various Ministers to finalise and move forward in some of the development…This meeting was very fruitful and it is something that we’re looking forward to collaboration with the Ministries now to get these things quickly done…It’s a partnership which we’re willing to work and willing to move forward with the process very quickly,” the Mayor opined.