Paying taxes or improving city?

Very often, City Hall appeals to businesses to pay their rates and taxes. Doing so, it generally says, would enable administrators to improve the quality of services provided to the city. Whenever City Hall makes an appeal as this, it is often very difficult to ignore it – especially since it touches on the city’s management. Such appeals are routine, and reflect the municipality’s inability to get residents to cooperate with it.
This publication respects the statutory obligations conferred upon citizens, and urges businesses to pay their rates and taxes. This is notwithstanding businesses not taking a delight in City Hall. Their reasons are understood. The problem is if businesses – and even households – continue to base their reactions to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) on sentiments, Georgetown would be in a wretched state. Whether the M&CC is liked or not, it is households and businesses that suffer when taxes are not paid.
The business community, in particular, should step up and pay their taxes. But – and there is a ‘but’ – inasmuch as paying rates and taxes is a statutory obligation, it is being honoured for a reason. Taxpayers expect authorities to provide them with quality services in return. That has always been the thrust of paying taxes. Further, it is their responsibility to ensure that they receive the type and quality of services they are paying for. To their disadvantage, there is hardly a way available to them to ensure that authorities keep their end of the bargain. This is unfair, since authorities have legal recourse against delinquent taxpayers. Local government elections are the only measure available to residents to depose incompetent and inefficient administrators. Regardless of the situation, taxes still have to be paid. It is therefore incumbent that businessmen meet with city officials, lay their demands on them, and get a commitment on how soon those demands would be met. If City Hall is able to impress residents generally, the latter would be disinclined to default on their payments.
Over the years, taxpayers have not seen the kinds of development they expected. Georgetown continues to battle with garbage; insanitation; strays, junkies and vagrants; petty robberies; and congestion among others. Instead of there being any notable improvements, the landscape continues to deteriorate and the problems worsen, and Government is often called upon to assist. In several beautification projects which the M&CC should have undertaken, it is the Office of the First Lady and the Government that are funding and executing these initiatives. In many instances, the municipality is unable to pay garbage collectors.
City Hall has a poor track record, which erodes public confidence in their ability to keep a commitment and use taxes efficiently to improve the city. This is responsible for the “chicken and egg” dilemma between the residents and the municipality. Should residents pay their taxes first, or does City Hall get its act together first? The municipality does need the money to run the city, so residents and businesses must be large enough to pay their taxes. But they must get City Hall to honour its obligations towards them. So long as they would have paid their taxes, residents have every right to have a go at city administrators for the inefficiency that has suffused them for too long.