This is truly the silly season, with false promises flowing out of the opposition camp, promises that can never be kept.
On the campaign trail, the opposition speakers keep promising to re-open the sugar estates. The Coalition’s leaders have been explaining over and over again why this promise is unrealistic. We talk about why, even with the best intentions, the dilapidated sugar factories could not be restarted; the estates could not be re-opened unless a lot of money is re-invested to rebuild everything from the ground up; why the decades-old machines, turbines, pumps, crushers, etc. have to be removed and new hi-tech equipment installed; why the finished product cannot be brown sugar for a large number of economic reasons.
Reason number 1: the world market in Europe that used to purchase Guyana’s brown sugar by the ton in the 1960’s and ‘70’s no longer exists! This is not what the PPP is telling supporters, some of whom are attending the rallies just to hear just how the PPP plans to give them back their back-breaking work cutting canes in the fields or working the factories.
At a recent meeting, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had this to say: “We (Coalition) knew that the sugar industry was going down, that the ones at Skeldon, Canje, Rose Hall, LBI, Enmore, were absolutely useless for producing sugar. We made the hard decision to close them down and in doing so we saved the jobs of 10,000 sugar workers.”
The APNU+AFC government had to subsidize the industry to the tune of $1 Billion over a period of 38 months from May 2015. From our close-up position in Government, we were able to see exactly how the Skeldon Estate pulled down the rest of the sugar industry.
The PPP/C administration did spend some $50 Billion presumably to refurbish this Estate. All this money, quite a huge investment, and the estate never worked. It became a ‘white elephant’. But everyone knows that this was not the only time that the PPP wasted the people’s money on bad ideas. We will talk about the failed Amaila Falls hydropower project another Sunday. Let’s revisit sugar awhile longer …
For many years between 1990 and the 2000’s, Guyana was producing sugar at 50 cents per pound, but the best price we could get for it on the world market was 16 cents per pound. The PPP even then talked up Skeldon estate, promising that it would be a ‘modern estate’ that would make sugar cheaper.
Well, a promise is food for fools, because that never materialized. Skeldon workers were not only put out of work because the factory never turned over, but it did not produce a pound of sugar. The country got no returns for such a big investment, and the workers were sent to work at Albion and elsewhere.
This administration was forced to close the Wales, Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates and to sever approximately 5,200 workers. President Granger, while speaking at the opening of the Diamond Magistrates’ Court, stated that during the PPP’s rule from 1992 to 2015, 5,340 employees of GuySuCo had been removed from the payroll.
“The downsizing of the sugar industry did not commence in 2016,” he said. Diamond estate alone severed 500 employees when it was closed in 2010, and GAWU had to take GuySuCo to court to get benefits for those employees.
This coalition government voluntarily paid out about $6 Billion in severance pay when the Coalition was forced to close a few other estates because they were draining the people’s $38B investment in Guysuco. But there were more benefits. Former sugar workers no longer had to report to work at 5.00 am to chop cane in the boiling sun. They were able to start up chicken farms, some bought mini vans and went into transportation, others are rearing pigs, have opened shops, and are growing kitchen gardens. They were not cut loose without help.
What we’d like to emphasize is that while we were pouring money down the sugar hole in the early years of this government, teachers, nurses, policemen, soldiers and other public servants were getting nothing, or very little because there was little left to give them.
As soon as the decision was made to re-organize sugar based on the best economic analyses, we were able to improve wages for public servants, pensioners and everyone else on the national payroll. And the future now holds bigger things for Guyanese workers with the anticipated revenue from the oil industry.
Every projection says that Guyana’s economy will grow to 86% in 2020, even the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These funds will finance the many developmental programmes during this Decade of Development – 2020 to 2030.
We can tell you too that the PPP in government also failed to help the rice industry. It was PM Nagamootoo who went to Mexico and secured that rice market and we are constantly trying to get better prices for rice and paddy. This government also installed to 6 massive pumps in Region 6 to alleviate flooding which was long overdue.
Let’s put another lie to rest – this government never promised farmers to get $20,000 for one bag of rice, or $9,000 for a bag of paddy. The people who made up this lie are bent on mischief. The only reason for misinformation like this is to create confusion.
So, when the PM visited his hometown recently, he reminded the villagers that they had asked this government for roads, street lights & clean drains, and for the piles of garbage to be removed, and it was done, even though the elected PPP/C councillors tried their best to stop the work of the NDC. Plus, the RDC was given billions of dollars to do the same works in the Region and they did nothing.
He talked about a number of regional developments such as the new East Bank Berbice road, the installation of streets lights across the region, the much-need reduction in tolls on the Berbice Bridge. He asked the people for their agreement to allow the Coalition to “continue what we have started,” telling them that no government in the Caribbean has done so much in such a short time.
We ask Guyanese to return the Coalition government to office to ensure “that a decent and honest government will manage the affairs of the country so that everyone can benefit.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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