Govt unmoved on countrywide property valuations
…as Communities Ministry moves ahead with projectThe Government of Guyana is moving ahead with its overhaul of property taxes across the country following Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan’s signing of an agreement with a Canadian company to fund a property and valuation system.The agreement, which was signed with the Municipal Property Assessments Canada (MPAC) and AxiLogic Inc, will bring the country closer to Government’s drive to bring all property values up to date.Speaking at the Ministry’s Kingston, Georgetown office, Minister Bulkan said that the project was geared to utilise modern technologies to complete a national inventory of properties, which would then be passed onto the Guyana Valuation Office to implement the necessary changes.“The scale and scope of this project involves a complete inventory of propertiesCommunities Minister Ronald Bulkan and AxiLogic President Michael Chettleburgh pose with the signed contracts. Also in photo are Communities Ministry Permanent Secretary Emile Mc Garrell, AxiLogic CEO John Psihos, MPAC Representative Antoni Wisniowski and Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjeenationally,” the Minister stated.He added that the project would allow for capacity building for the modernisation of property assessment. The Minister outlined that the improvements to this system would further advance Local Government organs which are guaranteed in the Constitution of Guyana. He, in fact, stated that such organs were “severely damaged” and degraded over time.Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee, highlighting the importance that valuation has towards providing services, added that the revenue generation initiative would foster development across the country. The first stage of the project will run for 12 months as a pilot in New Amsterdam at a contract cost of US$125,000.It will assess current property valuations after which shifts in the market will be analysed. Over the next two days, representatives of MPAC and AxiLogic will collaborate with the Communities Ministry to commence the project’s implementation.Even as property valuations were not assessed in several decades, the topic could be one for intense debate ahead of the November 12 Local Government Elections (LGE) as the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said that no increases in rates would be implemented in the areas the Party wins.When the Party launched its campaign in September, General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo made the announcement. Government had, however, outlined that rate hikes would be up to local officials after the valuations were complete. The Opposition is, however, holding out that upon the coalition’s assumption to office in 2015, it has increased over 200 taxes and was collecting some “$60 billion more per year now compared to 2014” from residents.“Any area that the PPP wins, we will not increase rates and taxes…people who vote APNU [A Partnership for National Unity] will be voting to increase their taxes,” the former President had indicated.Last year, Finance Minister Winston Jordan explained that efforts were being made to ensure the stability and self-sufficiency of the Local Democratic Organs (LDOs), to reduce dependence on subventions from central Government. He noted then that revenue for the LDOs came from rates applied to properties valued under a regime system that dates back to the 1970s.The Government has expressed its dissatisfaction with the national valuation system, noting that it showed an extended neglect of the local government system. This has led to the recognition of the importance of restoring the effectiveness of the Valuation Department, to provide support to the councils and to modernise the system for property evaluation.MPAC was contracted by Government for approximately $330 million to assist with the exercise. The project is expected to last until next year.