The Parking Meters Fiasco

By Hydar Ally

The introduction of parking meters in the city of Georgetown has been severely criticized by several individuals and organizations. Despite the torrent of criticisms, the City Council went ahead with its implementation in its bid to generate revenues for the Council, which is experiencing a severe financial crisis, which many observers attribute to lack of visionary leadership and mismanagement of the Council’s affairs.

Despite much talk about a Green City, the city continues to suffer from inadequate garbage collection, which is made even worse during periods of heavy rainfall. The garbage collecting firms contracted by the City Council to remove garbage have threatened multiple times to withdraw their services due to delays in payment. Municipal workers have been complaining about late payments on a regular basis. And mismanagement of the markets have resulted in a situation where market vendors now face an uncertain situation as the Council has failed to live up to their promises to provide suitable alternative vending spaces.

The above scenario does not speak well of those who are tasked with the management of the affairs of the City of Georgetown. And with the introduction of the parking meters, business in the city, especially in the areas where the meters are installed, will most likely suffer as many shoppers would avoid places where meters are installed.

The problem is not with the idea of revenue generation and increasing the revenue base of the Council. My own view is that the Council would require much more resources, both human and financial if there is to be any significant turnaround in the current dismal state of Georgetown.

The Council needs, however, to come up with new and innovative ways of generating revenue of which the parking meter should not be one of them.

The reason for this is simple. The majority of motorists do not belong to the propertied class and many of those are ordinary people, many of whom have taken advantage of government’s duty free concessions, which along with loans from the commercial banks, are just able to keep the wheels rolling, especially given the high cost of fuel and maintenance.

It is not surprising that they will utilize every means available to them to avoid paying parking meter charges. These charges attract VAT, which makes it all the more burdensome on motorists, many of whom are already struggling to find money to buy fuel and finance monthly mortgage payments.

Small wonder the Guyana Teachers’ Union have come out strongly against parking meters being installed in front of schools!

Those teachers who are fortunate enough to own cars, thanks to a duty free concession brokered between the Union and the previous PPP/C government for senior teachers.

Such was the haste to raise money that not even the Ptolemy Reid Handicapped Centre was spared and the decision only reversed after representation was made by the Centre to the President.

The City Council needs to have a Business Plan, which should be managed by a competent and experienced Chief Executive Officer, who is answerable to the Council but should be allowed to manage within the framework of policy without interference by politicians. A strategic plan should be developed by the Council with inputs from all the relevant stakeholders, which must include representatives from the business community, the relevant unions and other NGOs. Leaving the management of the City to the Mayor and City Councillors is a recipe for continued disaster given the fact that the key decision makers from the past are still in control.

Georgetown is a beautiful city, arguably the best in the Caribbean in terms of layout and architecture. The rich blend of European colonial structures and modern buildings, which include a few high rise structures, gives the city a unique appearance that sadly is diminished somewhat by the dirty and unkempt manner in which the city is kept.
One look at the City Hall building speaks volumes about the decades of neglect of this magnificent structure which is almost on the verge of structural disintegration and collapse.

But with all its faults, Georgetown is still a beautiful place. It would be a great loss to our national patrimony if the degeneration of this beautiful city continues.

The City Council and the Ministry of Communities along with other stakeholders have a duty and responsibility to find ways to ensure that there is a sustainable revenue stream to upgrade the city and restore it to its former glory as a Garden City.

The introduction of marking meters will not help. It will make the cost of doing business in Georgetown more expensive, which could further depress an already sinking economy. Moreover, it would chase away visitors and customers who would now seek out of town shopping centers.

The imposition of parking maters against the will of the citizens of Georgetown and the populace as a whole from all indication is an ill wind that blows no one any good.

It is not too late to scrap the project in its entirety.