The recent information released by government sources about the dire situation in the sugar industry, with a massive shake-up in the top echelons of Guysuco and the admission of corruption in the company, leaves one to ponder as to what is really going on here.
The Skeldon factory is faced with many problems but the bottom line is that for profitability to be certain, the volume of cane fed through that factory has to be enough to keep the factory viable. This is not happening and with the way things are going it never will happen.
To increase the volume of cane, suitable land should be opened up for private enterprise to get involved in the industry in a bigger way, because Guysuco has failed the sugar workers and the industry as a whole. The workers should be paid more now by using the retirement benefits which are just sitting there − the workers need the money now, not later, and increased wages will mean more production and incentives to work harder. As President Cheddi always wanted, we should use the tri-sectoral approach to the fundamental economic problems in our way: the government, the private sector and the workers, working together to solve the myriad of difficulties facing us. By using this tri-sectoral approach in the sugar industry, many problems can be solved and the whole industry can be turned around. For this to happen, this government will have to stop paying just lip service to President Cheddi’s vision and start to respond to the will of the workers in the sugar industry.
All these years have passed and only now we see a shake-up at Guysuco, now that trouble in the industry is growing almost in concert with the dislocations in the rice, tourism, forestry and manufacturing industries. President Cheddi cared about the workers and their needs and unless the tri-sectoral approach is used to correct the mistakes of the past, we are going nowhere in terms of expanding and rejuvenating any major industry in this country.
It is interesting to see that Mr Ramotar, the general secretary of the PPP, has been on the board of Guysuco for some time now and it is strange that he did not see the mismanagement and corruption in the sugar industry. I am pretty sure that Mr Ramotar is not corrupt or involved even in a remote way with anything to do with corruption, but it seems that he is not an anti-corruption fighter and this does not bode well for our future if he is selected by the PPP to be its presidential candidate.
Mr Ramotar, as a leading PPP figure, should have taken a stand against the management of Guysuco a long time ago; Mr.Ramotar should have come to the aid of the poor workers in the sugar industry a long time ago by demanding higher wages and better working conditions to uphold the great principles of President Cheddi.
Mr Ramotar should have taken a stand against the horrific 16% VAT which is hated and detested by every single sugar worker in this country and which would have made Dr Jagan so angry, he would have organized against it.
US$180-200M for the Skeldon factory and really nothing doing, when the Minister of Agriculture told us everything was as good as gold and now what? G$80M for a pump, and the same minister told us that everything was ready for the floods and now what? G$4B loaned to Guysuco (and counting) by this government with the approval of Minister Persaud, and now what? Millions upon millions of our dollars spent on promoting food production by Minister Persaud, while the brainchild of President Cheddi, Black Bush Polder, falls to pieces and the farmers flee the land, and now what? Strikes upon strikes in the sugar industry by the workers resulting in the loss of millions of dollars to our economy and the same Minister praises a measly 6% pay increase which is evaporated by the 13-15% cost of living increases plus the killer VAT; strikes will continue to haunt the industry, and now what? Minister Persaud has had absolutely no experience in the agriculture sector; his expertise is in public relations and he should use this expertise to push for the tri-sectoral approach to solve our sugar problems.
Now what is necessary is for these PPP ministers, leaders and presidential candidates to go back and read and study the writings, speeches and commentaries of President Cheddi concerning the sugar industry and they will see clearly that this government is on the wrong track, because it is the well-being of the workers in the industry which dictates the whole success of the industry itself. Since the death of Dr Jagan over 12 years ago, this PPP government has failed to look after the interests of the sugar workers and this will come back to haunt its record.
Cheddi (Joey) Jagan (Jr)