In May, Guyanese were introduced to a brand new Ministry.
After emerging victors in the General and Regional Elections, the relatively new coalition, as part of its new-look Government, unveiled the Ministry of Communities, merging what was formerly known as the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development with the Ministry of Housing.
The idea, explains Ronald Bulkan, the Ministry’s first leader, was to bring the country’s development in line with reality on the ground. Bulkan has been handed the task to make it all happen.
The creation of a Ministry of Communities (MoC) is long overdue, Bulkan explained to Guyana Inc.. “It is only logical and sensible to have a single Ministry that will be responsible for delivering all of the services which pertain to creating decent and dignified living conditions,” the Minister added.
Continuing, he explained “It is a Ministry that has, at its heart, human needs and the interest of citizens. Simply put, a single Ministry, under one administrative structure, would be better able to coordinate activities in a holistic and comprehensive manner rather than multiple separate agencies. It is for efficiency and rational delivery.”
It was the same explanation that the Minister made on August 20, 2015 during his national budget presentation to the National Assembly. The focus of the new ministry is to create communities, he belaboured. “We want to develop communities which include proper infrastructure, good water supply, roads, recreational facilities, health centres and schools, among others. In this way, citizens can enjoy decent standards of living.”
Indeed, development in the past has been hampered by the fact that coordination was needed on many initiatives and projects, often leading to delays.
“The decision to create the MoC,” Bulkan explained, “is in line with campaign-promises regarding housing, made during the 2015 campaign, as articulated in the Manifesto which is now government policy. It is part of the broader, comprehensive, holistic strategic vision of the administration to create a better life for all Guyanese,” the Minister said.
The new ministry is ambitious in its promises as they have stated their intention to initiate a campaign called ‘Renewing the Dream’ which will expand and upgrade housing development away from the seaside and facilitate home ownership, not only house lot distribution.
Minister Bulkan noted that in the past, it was the practice to issue house lots and not look at the wider development aspect that will ensure citizens are living in schemes that offer more than a place to live.
“The MoC was created also to merge community development with regional development. The administration is of the firm view that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between development and empowerment; there can be no regional development in the absence of regional empowerment.”
The administration intends to give effect to Article 74 of the Constitution, which states: “It shall be the primary duty of local democratic organs to ensure in accordance with Law the efficient management and development of their areas and provide leadership by example.”
With this in mind, the administration expects that Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) to leverage their particular natural and human resources to attract investments, create jobs and thereby, promote development, instead of simply waiting for subventions from central government.
“Regions are expected to be productive regions, not just administrative regions. This view was articulated by His Excellency (President David Granger) on July 10, 2015 when the new Regional Chairpersons (RCs) were sworn in at the Ministry of the Presidency. On that occasion, the President said, ‘Every single region can be rich, no region is desert, no region is swamp land, and every region has resources, human resources, material and natural resources, and we must decide how those resources must be exploited in order to benefit our people.’”
On that occasion, the President also called on RCs to craft developmental plans for their regions- he charged each RDC to craft a Plan of Action for Regional Development (PARD). He said that in crafting such a plan, “serious consideration must be given to clearly defined economic goals.”
RDCs will now have the ability to make a meaningful contribution to their own development. “Regional empowerment involves transferring decision-making power from central government, into the hands of the people. Decentralisation of power involves devolution, deconcentration and deregulation,” the minister stressed.
In other words, the ministry, and by extension the new Government, is seeking to place more power in the hands of the people.
“Devolution and deconcentration is the transfer of administrative and decision-making processes to sub-national levels of government, such as our local democratic organs (LDOs). This transfer of roles, responsibilities and functions will be accompanied by the requisite authority and autonomy, to empower LDOs such as Regional Democratic Councils to leverage their diverse natural and human assets to benefit residents of each region.”
As a matter of fact, RDCs will now be empowered and expected to raise their own revenues, work directly to attract business investors and thereby, create jobs and opportunities for their respective residents.
“Regions will not only be administrative subdivisions of the country, but they will be productive and self-sufficient. Citizens can therefore have more opportunities and wider prospects to build better lives regardless of where they live.”
Deregulation includes the divestment of state-controlled assets to the private sector, as well as delegation of responsibilities to non-centrally controlled statutory bodies.
“Decentralisation, therefore, will result in central government working hand-in-hand with local democratic organs, nongovernmental organisations, and the private sector, to raise the standard of living of all Guyanese, instead of dictating to citizens from offices in Georgetown,” Bulkan intimated.
According to the Minister, many initiatives will be undertaken to facilitate and augment the process of regional empowerment, which will lead to development. One such initiative was the unveiling of Regional Flags and Emblems at the Regional Democratic Councillors Leadership Forum at Arthur Chung International Convention Centre on July 31.
“The flags embody the spirit and economic backbones of each region, and capture their unique resources and sources of pride. The administration believes that there is strength in diversity and honour in acknowledging our proud traditions in our varied and diverse land,” the Minister stated.
He is insistent that the new ministry was created to comprehensively improve the standards of living of all Guyanese by facilitating coordination among the various departments which make this possible – department of housing, department of water, department of regional development and department of local government – which are the four departments within the MoC.
In May, Guyanese were introduced to a brand new Ministry.