Arnold Sanasie descends into desperate absurdity in his defence of Donald Ramotar (‘Ramotar is not responsible for what happens on a day-to-day basis in GuySuCo,’ SN, June 27). Mr Sanasie claims that Mr Ramotar was sitting on a non-executive board and that he (Ramotar) was not responsible for GuySuCo’s direct management. Mr Sanasie must be a firm believer in sophistry because we all know that Donald Ramotar and the board were dictating policy for GuySuCo and for the entire sugar industry to follow. Mr Ramotar bears some responsibility for the tragic decline of sugar. His policies on the GuySuCo Board directly affected how management established its own policies and targets. While Mr Ramotar did not directly manage a crop field, his policies shaped and determined how that field was managed or mismanaged. Thus, one is definitely entitled to complain about his policymaking when that policymaking affects the entire industry.
Why shouldn’t Mr Ramotar be blamed for a policy to build a 1.6 million tonne per annum processing capacity sugar factory when the country has never ever produced more than 450,000 tonnes per annum? I hate to burst Mr Sanasie’s bubble but the Skeldon Sugar Factory was a disastrous policy in light of the abandonment of the EU preferential price for sugar. When you lose preferential markets, you lose money. You do not bone-headedly build a monstrosity of a sugar factory in response. You try to reform the existing industry to seek cost-savings and efficiencies to produce sugar at a lower cost. Cost savings are not achieved by building a behemoth sugar factory when your production of cane is at the level of a gnat. That is horse-before-the-cart type of policymaking. Grow more cane first. Then build a bigger factory. Skeldon cannot lower the cost of production unless it is running at or near full capacity. Cheap electricity can only be produced if the factory is grinding cane. Where is the cane? Not being grown.
With this money spent on machine harvesting, how many machines are harvesting the cane lands at Skeldon? How many hectares are machine harvested each year and what percentage of planted hectares is harvested by machines? The bottom line here is that Donald Ramotar has been front and centre of the political games the PPP has played with the sugar industry since 1992. Sugar workers want to leave the industry. The PPP doesn’t want them to leave because they will lose control over them and in turn, their voting pattern. So the PPP pays a prohibitive bribe in the form of more pay to coerce more inefficient, desultory and unproductive sugar workers from
leaving the back-breaking grind of sugar.
This is not about sugar workers or the sugar industry. This is about votes. It is about playing politics instead of playing profits. Any government that really cares about its supporters would let them leave to find better paying and easier jobs because it aids their personal development, puts more money in their pockets and is less strenuous on their health. But the PPP doesn’t really care about its Indian supporters who dominate the industry’s workforce. They want these people trapped in sugar. Taxpayers must give bailouts to the sugar industry every year so that the PPP can play games. The PPP knows it has to mechanise the industry but it started by putting the horse before the cart. Its attempts at mechanisation have backfired while its political games to keep labour tied to sugar are also creating havoc with clarity on a mechanisation plan.
PPP supporters in the sugar industry wanting to leave for easier and better jobs are infinitely smarter than the Arnold Sanasies and Donald Ramotars of this world. They value their labour and their health. They know this is not Cheddi Jagan’s PPP any more. That dream has firmly died. Finally, this has everything to do with Mr Ramotar’s presidential candidacy. If he can mess things up this badly while sitting as a non-executive board member not responsible for the direct management of the nation’s biggest corporation covering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers, what should we expect if he becomes the head of the executive presidency responsible for the direct management of the entire country of 765,000?