President David Granger: Permanent Secretaries; Mayors and Deputy Mayors; Regional Chairpersons; other senior Government Officials; delegates of the NRDCC; friends; ladies and gentlemen; members of the media:
I am very happy to be here this morning to participate in the launch of this important committee. The Constitution proclaims the Cooperative Republic of Guyana as an indivisible, secular, sovereign and democratic state; within that state the local government system is indispensable to our concept of democracy. It is essential to the State’s economic, cultural, political and social development.
Local government is part of the State’s democratic character; the Constitution again provides that “local government by freely elected representatives of the people is an essential part of the democratic organisation of the state, particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being”.
Local democratic organs are not ornamental; they are not central government appendages, they are an integral part of the national government, which has three tiers: the first, consisting of central government itself; the second, consisting of the regional government and the third consisting of the councils at a local level- municipalities, neighbourhood and village levels. Guyana’s rich resources will remain underexploited and the country remains underdeveloped unless all three tiers are able to work together.
Guyana will not fulfil its promise of proving a good life for all of its citizens unless it becomes a country of economically robust and resilient regions, prosperous municipalities and productive neighbourhoods.
Local democratic organs can fulfil their mandate to help the country to achieve its fullest potential. First, however, the capacity must be enlarged and their competence must be enhanced by fostering consultation within communities; cooperation with other regions; coordination with State agencies authorities and commissions and collaboration with the central government.
The State of Guyana comprises ten administrative regions, each of which is administered by an elected Regional Democratic Council. Regions are composed of elected municipalities, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and village councils. These organs also are not administrative adjuncts. The Constitution again provides that “Municipalities, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and such other subdivisions including Village Councils shall be vital organs of local democratic power”.
Guyana’s regions are imposing and impressive geographical zones. The Barima-Waini Region is larger than the state of Kuwait. The Pomeroon-Supenaam is larger than Trinidad and Tobago. The Essequibo Islands – West Demerara Region is larger than Mauritius. Demerara-Mahaica is larger than Singapore. Mahaica-Berbice is larger than Cape Verde. East-Berbice-Corentyne is larger than Belgium. Cuyuni-Mazaruni is larger than The Netherlands. Potaro-Siparuni is larger than Fiji. The Rupununi is larger than Costa Rica and Upper Demerara-Berbice is larger than The Bahamas.
RDCs, therefore, possess enormous power to do good if only they could overcome their pettiness and their prejudices which we see on display today by the absence of the PPP dominated Regional Democratic Councils. Guyana is purposefully becoming a ‘green’ state.
Guyana is emphasising the protection of our environment; the preservation of our biodiversity; the provision of eco-tourism and eco-education services and the promotion of practical measures to ensure climate adaptation. Guyana will place an additional two million hectares of our territory under conservation this year.
Guyana is committed to a low-carbon, low-emission trajectory of development; all of these are part of the responsibility of regions if this is to become a reality. The entire country is part of the Guiana Shield, one of the world’s last tracks of intact tropical rainforest. A zone which has been described as the ‘lungs of the earth’, our country is blessed with diverse ecosystems: the coastlands, the grasslands, the highlands, the lake lands, the wetlands, rainforest, rivers and some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls and rapids. Each region has its own unique ecological zone; each region should be proud of its biodiversity; each region should be proud of its portion of this great patrimony; it is an honour to have been a Regional Chairman.
The asymmetries in economic development and infrastructural assets; the diversity of our natural resources and the complexities of ecosystems of our region present challenges for government; a country as vast and diverse as Guyana requires all three tiers of government to work together for the public good — the national, the regional and the local.
Ladies and gentlemen, Guyana’s development depends on strong regions. The regions are the roots of economic growth. The development of the regions must be stimulated by capital towns. Last year we saw that we created three capital towns, each one capable of providing the full gamut of quality public services.
We must enhance their capability to deliver education, energy from renewable sources, law enforcement, health, housing, water supply, immigration, taxation and the registration of births, deaths and businesses. All of these are needed for human development, all of these can be provided by our regions and particularly our capital towns.
Capital towns must encourage employment, establish industrial estates, enable economic diversification and deliver economic services such as banking, commerce, communications, insurance, law courts and other business services. Every region eventually must have its own aerodrome, its own college, its own high court, its own police divisional headquarters, its own radio and television station, its own referral hospital, its own stadium.
Every region must be capable of attracting investment and encouraging trade with the Caribbean and other neighbouring countries. Every region must have thriving commercial districts. Regional Democratic Councils, therefore, within the confines of the law, must work with Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, municipalities and village councils to promote this form of economic development. Every region must superintend the work of its neighbourhood councils and village councils in order to enable them to better govern their communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Constitution demands cooperative forms of governance on the part of local democratic organs. A mechanism needs to be created to ensure that the Regional Democratic Councils, the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, the municipalities, the village councils and other regional stakeholders are able to meet, discuss and plan for development and thereby give effect to popular participation in government. That’s why we’re here today.
This Regional Democratic Consultative Committee which has been established by the Minister of Communities is praiseworthy. It has been established to provide such a mechanism. The committees will be purely consultative. They cannot usurp the functions of the RDCs, they cannot usurp the functions of the NDCs or the village councils, they just provide the mechanism for the chairpersons to come together to communicate.
The local government system was given a lease of life in March 2016 with the conduct of Local Government Elections after over 18 years. That system is still beset by challenges and these challenges can be overcome through greater consultation, through collaboration, through communication, through cooperation and coordination between the local government organs across this great country.
The National Regional Development Consultative Committee is such a mechanism. I do believe that it has the capability to improve our system of local government. The committee will enhance the work of local government organs. It would empower elected officials; it would encourage residents to enrich the economies of their regions.
The NRDCC is consistent with the spirit of the democratic organisation of the state as dictated by our Constitution. It will lead us further along the path to providing the good life for all. I congratulate the Minister of Communities for bringing the NRDCC into existence and I wish it success in its operations.
I thank you all.

Leave a Comment