When sugar turns bitter

first_imgwhile campaigning during the 2011 and 2015 elections, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) were on record berating and sharply criticising the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for what it termed its incompetence in handling the affairs of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and by extension the country’s sugar industry.Both parties were convinced that they understood the challenges facing the industry better than the PPP. In fact, the PPP was accused of pouring taxpayers monies into “a black hole” by then Opposition Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge during a 2013 Budget Debate, since those funds were not yielding any tangible results in his mind, even though the situation as far as profitability and the industry’s sustenance was getting from bad to worse.Mr Greenidge felt that the monies were directed to GuySuCo in particular because of the PPP’s traditional electoral support from workers along the sugar belt. Other pseudo independent economists and experts, including Professor Clive Thomas and Anthony Vieira also chipped in from time to time to chastise the PPP and offer advice on the way forward for the industry.The effect of their constant lobbying and winning was that a majority of the people felt that the PPP was indeed mismanaging the industry and refused to listen to the advice of the experts and Opposition pundits in order to set sugar on a path to recovery. This continued until the last elections when Mr Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan campaigned heavily along the sugar belt areas promising vulnerable workers to revive the industry, sustain its future and craft a new course for its development.This duo also promised never to preside over the downfall of the industry while committing their coalition party to providing better salaries and working conditions under a modernised and profitable sugar industry.It is therefore more than disappointing that the coalition, now in office, appears clueless as to what to do to save the industry from this allegedly PPP-engineered crisis. It continued the bailouts during its first 100 days in office. And despite commissioning an inquiry into the state of affairs of the industry, there is no progress being made on turning it around. GuySuCo, two years, is not in a better place. It is worst off.Instead of announcing measures to be taken from its ‘heroic and top secret plan’ which it held while in Opposition, the Government is throwing workers into disappear by rashly closing sugar estates and reducing the workforce of GuySuCo without any social impact assessments being done. It also appears clueless about what should be done with the estates once they are closed and this is evident when one listens to confusing and sometimes insensitive, as well as ill-informed pronouncements made by the Agriculture Minister and his boss at the Ministry of Presidency, Joseph Harmon.The situation reaches its climax when one looks at the competency of the new Board and the senior managerial team running GuySuCo and the fact that the Government is now rushing to table a “white paper” in Parliament following cosmetic consultations. No one’s impressed by the Government’s stewardship of the industry and in the days to come, those sugar workers at Enmore, Skeldon and Rose Hall will experience the bitter taste of sugar under the hand of the APNU/AFC politicians.What is also more than passing strange is there is a lot of secrecy about what is going in the industry and the media is doing a poor job in highlighting the personal hardship being faced by thousands of sugar workers who worked and toiled to build this country when bauxite was failing and the other productive sectors clinging to life. It is also unfortunate that President David Granger has not seen it fit to confront these ordinary and poor workers directly and with the same vigour that he canvassed for their votes in the past.Surely, they deserve better than to hear from their elected representatives only via the media what will possibly happen next and how they would be affected. His posture and that of his three Vice Presidents when it comes to the treatment of sugar would lead to feelings of disillusionment, political discrimination and economic uncertainty.Sugar must not die and there must not be any move to downsize the industry without the approval of workers and agreement of the citizenry. This is not a decision for Cabinet and it’s not a decision for those at Congress place who are wielding real power.The mood of the country should give the Government pause and it should consider the impact it will have on its re-election bid. The sweet days of sugar under the PPP appear over and from the utterances of the current Government, which has had a fetish with the action of “closing down” the industry while in Opposition, appear bitter and brown to say the least.last_img read more

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