Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan Wednesday night signaled that residents in towns and neighbourhoods would eventually have to pay increased rates and taxes after properties are re-valued following the upcoming Local Government Elections.
“Of all of the factors, money is the most important one and therefore determining and establishing the revenue base if Councils is a priority,” he said.
In his contribution to the 2016 National Budget, Bulkan noted that the financial status of the councils has been in a devastated condition because property valuations and re-valuations have not been done since 1995 and “collection rates are low.”
Speaking with Demerara Waves Online News his presentation, Bulkan said property valuations would be done about six months after the polls but central government would not instruct that the rates and taxes be increased immediately. “It does not mean that a revaluation exercise is going to automatically translate into the application of those rates but it will be central government that will decide on the time of implementation,” he said. He explained that it would depend on the 71 local authorities having proper budgets before government decides how much would both central and local authorities would provide.
Asked whether he believed the APNU+AFC coalition feared that it could lose votes at the Local Government Elections as a result of its plan to hike rates and taxes, he said he was confident that Guyanese would be willing to contribute to improved conditions. “We are committed to the rehabilitation and repair of the conditions in our communities and nothing comes for free. We can continue to remain in communities that are in crisis, in public health hazards or we can start a meaningful discussion to ensure that if adequate funding is provided through a variety if sources- including rates- to allow for the rehabilitation and repair of our communities,” he said.
The Minister of Communities did not forecast considerable improvements in local authorities until after about three electoral cycles. Local Government Elections have not been held since 1994. The Local Government Elections scheduled for 18th March, 2016 would cost an estimated GYD$1.3 billion.
Bulkan further announced that six municipal plans and those for the new councils would be refined through the Canada-funded Caribbean Local Economic Development Project (CARILED).
Bulkan further told the House that nine town and 62 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils could not expect amounts to be doled out under the Fiscal Transfers Act. “The Fiscal Transfers Act does not mandate the central government to provide funds but outlines a formula to access allocations, such allocations being entirely discretionary,” he said. At the same time, he said GYD$400 million have been allocated in this year’s National Budget to assist and support the new towns of Bartica, Lethem and Mabaruma.
He further announced that plans are on the table to integrate the financial and administrative management of the local authorities through a common Information and Technology (IT) platform as part of the E-Government system.
He reiterated that the Local Government Commission would aim to de-politicise the local government system. “It will allow for over time for the politics to be taken out from the management of the communities. Too often the rancor that accompanies political cut and thrust affect community minded persons from coming forward,” he said.