More than $700,000 in prize money will be up for grabs when the 2016 General Accident Insurance Company tennis tournament serves off tomorrow at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston. The tournament will end on Sunday, April 10.This tournament will be part of the Llockett McGregor tennis series, and for the first time, it will be an Open tournament, with prize money attached. There will be Men’s and Women’s Open, Men’s Professional 35 for older players, and a Men’s Class 2 team event that will feature teams from Oaklands, Police Officers Club, Montego Bay, the Pegasus and Ocho Rios, and a special Liguanea Club doubles championship. Sixteen junior doubles teams will also participate.The whole idea, McGregor told The Gleaner, is to make the tournament more attractive to various groups of players, many of whom will participate so as to gain bragging rights among their colleagues, over the next year.At the launch of the tournament on Wednesday at the Liguanea Club, General Accident’s business development officer, Nadia Mitchell, lauded the organisers of the tournament and pointed to the fact that each year, the tournament was well supported by players and spectators. One hundred and fifteen players are expected to participate this year.Her company’s vision, Mitchell said, “goes way beyond the tennis courts because each year, this prestigious event brings together world-class players, and tennis enthusiasts” and this she said, “bolsters personal development of the youth players in particular, and creates the opportunity for individuals to engage in a diverse community centred activity.”The top-seeded male player is Damion Johnson, a former Jamaica No. 1 player. Current female champion Ffion Fletcher is the top female in the line-up, and in the Men’s 35, Dwayne Pagon, a former Davis Cup captain is the top seed.
Parking meter burden… adjusted fee will not ease burden on citizens – JagdeoThe controversial Parking Meter Project has been partially suspended until next week when a new fee structure will be announced. This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who announced on Friday that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) agreed to suspend the punitive aspect of the project to pave the way for wider consultations with all stakeholders on the Parking Meter Project. “The City Council has taken certain steps; one of the first steps they have taken was to basically suspend the punitive aspects of the paid parking project… they indicated that it is going to be suspended and they will engage with stakeholders to see how best the programme can be adjusted,” he explained.According to Harmon, this decision was arrived at following the engagement with members of Central Government, Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, and Town Clerk Royston King, on Wednesday evening at State House.He said the City Council is now charged with the mandate to have consultations with the public and then arrive at a solution satisfying to all parties involved.“What we want is an outcome that is acceptable to both sides,” the Minister of State stated.Minister Harmon explained that it is not in the interest of Central Government to intervene in the business of the City Council, but it became necessary in this situation because of the strategic importance of Georgetown.Fee adjustmentKit Nascimento, the Smart City Solutions (SCS) Public Relations Officer, explained to Guyana Times that the current fee structure will be adjusted, following an emergency meeting with President David Granger, which came on the heels of immense public outcry and two mass protests outside City Hall.“The company and the M&CC have agreed that there would be a new rate structure that will be put forward in respect of the metered parking project,” he stated.Nascimento said the announcement of the new structure will be made sometime next week and until then, there will be a suspension of the project.“…until such time as the new rate structure is announced, there will be a moratorium in respect of immobilisation enforcement activities,” he explained.This means the clamping of vehicles and charging of fines will not be enforced until the announcement is made.The adjustments would also include changes in the fines for the various violations.Nascimento also disclosed that in addition to changes in the fee structure, there will be changes in the overall project.Presently, motorists are required to pay $50 plus Value Added Tax (VAT) at 14 per cent for every 15 minutes. However, many consumers have complained that the company is charging VAT at 16 per cent.Additionally, the prepaid cards were structured in such a way that monies are wasted with every purchase.A parking meter card for the maximum parking time of two hours costs $580, but the value of the card is only $500. Parking for two hours at the rate of $15 plus VAT for every 15 minutes, it will amount to $464. Therefore, the balance will be $36, which cannot be used to pay for the minimum parking time, nor can it be transferred. The $36 will be wasted and the same pattern persists with any of the cards purchased.Additionally, if an individual fails to pay for parking in a metered zone, his/her vehicle will be clamped and they will have up to two hours to pay a release fine of $8000 plus VAT. If the individual attempts to remove the clamp, a fine of $100,000 will be charged, or the person could spend up to three months in prison.After two hours of being immobilised, the vehicle would be towed and this would attract a fee of $12,000.But if the individual’s vehicle is damaged in that process, the parking meter company’s staff would not be liable, nor will the individual be compensated.ScrappingMeanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo in a statement on Friday insisted that a reduction of the rates will be merely palliative and does not address the transparency issues, nor does it ease the burden on citizens who are already overwhelmed with excessive increases in almost “200 new taxes, fees and VATable items” in less than two years of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government.Jagdeo also noted that the “duplicitous positions and complicit role” of Granger’s Government on this matter.“They started out by disowning the project, claiming local government autonomy, but Minister Bulkan has signed By-laws into effect. The Government sought to mislead and deceive Guyanese by claiming Cabinet and the Attorney General had not approved the By-laws. If that is true, then the President should sanction Minister Bulkan. However, there is grave suspicion about this being a concoction to obfuscate the matter. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the Parking Meter Project could not have been implemented without the signing of those By-laws,” he stated.The Opposition Leader said another “duplicitous action” is when President Granger convened a meeting to persuade the M&CC to reduce the parking meter rates, having claimed earlier he was not interfering in local government matters.“From all indications, the Granger Government supported this project from its inception and throughout, while the APNU/AFC-dominated Georgetown Mayor and City Council was emboldened by the support,” Jagdeo stated.In light of the foregoing, the Opposition Leader said he remains supportive of the civil society protest, and that nothing short of scrapping the Parking Meter Project will suffice.