The trash and filth-ridden drain around Guyana’s Parliament epitomizes the state of Georgetown and one can safely say the state of Guyana (see pictures below) -- a nation plagued by corruption at all levels, with a bureaucracy that makes the nation crawl, and a political system that totally centralizes power in a nation that still awaits the implementation of local elections.
I never expected to see such filth around parliament. This should be the centerpiece of the city. Imagine what impression foreigners have of Guyana seeing this and yet we hear much rhetoric about tourism. Those who talk about Guyana’s tourism potential are in dreamland. They need to go just across the border to Paramaribo and look at that ornate capital, where colonial buildings and homes are preserved in a city that is clean and attractive, and is undergoing major rehabilitation of the waterfront and surrounding areas.
Sadly, in Guyana the waterfront no longer exists, squatters are everywhere, real estate deals are doggy and the seawall is the new party spot where heaps of rubbish are left after the bacchanal. Georgetown may very well be CARICOM’s most unattractive capital.
Guyanese are saying that the country has become the paradise of thieves and squatters and void of law and order. When there is blatant corruption and those in authority themselves don’t abide by the law, then the people will do as they please and they are doing just that. And this has been the case since 1966 and has accelerated in the past decade to an unprecedented level.
Georgetown and its surroundings are developing haphazardly. Ugly buildings, housing schemes and shopping centers (malls) are popping up everywhere in a city that has seems to have no urban development plan, and which has caused major stress on the city.
Take for example the four-lane highway that is being built from the airport to Georgetown -- there isn’t enough land to build the highway. Who gave developers permission to build housing there and why were squatters not removed decades ago? Further, the highway that Kuwait was suppose to fund can’t be executed since 200 homes have been built there by squatters and the government is complaining that it does not have $8 million to relocate them.
For the same reason, the Georgetown/Timehri Highway expansion is being stalled due to squatters and developers everywhere. As well, squatters have stalled the modernization and expansion of Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
Where is the urban plan for Georgetown, or is it just a paper tiger? The city can’t cope with housing developments on both sides of the Demerara River; it has led tremendous increase of traffic on the bridge, traffic congestion around the Demerara Harbour Bridge area and the city at large; sewer backup, rubbish, pollution, and increased traffic and congestion in Georgetown centre. The bridge was not built 30 years ago for such stress.
And yet, those in authority are allowing developers to build new housing and shopping centres in the city without considering the aesthetic character of Georgetown and the environmental impact. Has the public seen the plan for these new malls? Does it look like a garage, as some suggest?
Moreover, take a look at main street, Georgetown. Most of the colonial buildings have been destroyed and slabs of concrete and glass are going up. This should have been the centerpiece of Georgetown. This is not sustainable development. This is not economic development. Economic development is good but what sort of jobs are being offered and how many jobs?