Jan 23, 2017 News
“We are not going in there with any prejudice except for the fact that the sugar industry must not be a burden to the Guyanese tax payer any longer.” Those words were uttered by President David Granger when asked about his position on the issue of the future of the sugar industry during his televised show, the Public Interest.
Granger said that his government will not be entering into consultation with any prejudice in mind except to ensure that the industry does not become a burden to tax payers. He said that the main focus right now is to arrive at a consensus with all stakeholders and the best way forward in addressing the issues of the industry.
“The government’s position is that we should seek consensus that is why we have embarked on talks with members of the opposition and civil society. We realise that sugar is one of the oldest industries in Guyana and many of our foreparents were brought here to cut sugar cane.
In dealing with the pressing issues affecting the industry, Granger said that his government will not be rushing ahead. “It is a large employer, it occupies a large part of our land space, so we are not rushing ahead, we have some clear ideas on what has happened to sugar over the years, we know what has happened to Skeldon, that was a financial catastrophe, we know of the mismanagement which has taken place and brought sugar to the present situation.”
According to the President a lot has been done to assist the industry in the form of spending billions of dollars in bailouts every year. As such, Granger said that his administration feels the burden on the country should be brought to an end. “…so in all good faith we have sought dialogue with the Opposition and the unions and we would like them to bring up ideas, we’d like civil society to bring up ideas so we arrive at a consensus that all Guyanese can be satisfied with.”
He stressed that his government wants to save the jobs of the persons working in the industry and further, that Guyana can continue to have a viable sugar industry. He added that whatever the outcome is, it must be acceptable to the Guyanese people. “So we will continue meeting and I hope that the dialogue comes to a conclusion as quickly as possible.”
The first set of consultations were held on December 31, 2016 when members of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), government officials and representatives of the parliamentary opposition, the People’s Progressive Party.
Leading the government’s team in the round of negotiations was Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. Following the meeting, Ramjattan said that consultations are being conducted to ensure that the best interest of all stakeholders will be considered.
He said that the decision for consultations was made during a Cabinet meeting where it was recognised that there needs to be consultations on the matter. Former General Secretary of the PPP Clement Rohee who attended the meeting expressed similar sentiments since whatever outcome is chosen, thousands of lives stand to be affected.
Documents related to the industry were shared as well as the possible options regarding the future of GuySuCo. It was agreed that they would be given time to peruse the documents and that another meeting would be held shortly.
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