Because I appreciate all the elements of the national issue that is the fate and future of this country’s sugar industry; and because I do have a connection with Sugar Union GAWU- however distant- I make bold to offer a few simple but pointed and fundamental comments on a challenge that is bound to be “nationally sensitive”.
What are the “elements” to which I refer above? Well our sugar is steeped in history. It is the cause for the “arrival” of the fore parents of most of us. Our sugar helped to make Britain Great as it ensured it retained its British Guiana colony.
Manipulation by the owner coloniser also resulted in division between the Africans and the later Indian contracted immigrants who worked the European owned and managed industry. Sugar later- and forever- also became steeped in politics. Descendants of the “Indians“ embraced Cheddi Jagan’s PPP to the point where independent observers could be excused for having the view that that political party behaves as if it is a sole landlord of local Indo-territory and minds.
Be assured friends, that over recent months I have read, listened, even stressed over the multitude of views with respect to where sugar is today. Rest assured through, I’m not about to repeat most of them in this limited space. Rather heed my questions.
Sugar workers, the past and now
Who cared about sugar- workers when Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar sat on the Guysuco Board? When Bharrat Jagdeo conceived of his Chinese-built Skeldon facility which barely produced sugar at a non- profitable cost.
Was Burnham wrong to utilize the after-profit sugar levy to benefit all Guyana? So should sugar now be subsidized to the detriment of other sectors of the economy? What is the PPP’s real interest in those who labour in that industry?
What happens to the Region’s largest trade union, GAWU, when (not if) the sugar sector is significantly downsized, diversified or privatized?
The answers to those questions, my readers, contain the crux of the present and future of this historic, one-time mainstay of our economy. But Frankly Speaking, the complexities of politics and economics collide amidst this sensitive national issue. For if not handled carefully, the demise of sugar and displacement of thousands will impact us all. Negatively! And blaming the Europeans is pointless now. But shouldn’t they assist?
From whence the Billions?
Where must the government source the bailout billions every year if not from us the overtaxed taxpayers? I have accessed GAWU’s submissions to the Commission of Inquiry, the Unions, submissions to the Parliamentary Sectorial Committee on Economic Services, the report of the COI itself and numerous suggestions by concerned and knowledgeable unionists and citizens.
There are many promising remedies/proposal but none point directly to the Billions the Government must “cough up”. Consider the foregoing part one of my contribution. Prematurely perhaps, I close by wondering if Dr Ramsammy and Donald Ramotar would have ploughed the billions in because of political considerations. Next time we’ll look at the position of Dr Clive Thomas, CEO Hanoman and, oh yes, our silent Agriculture Minister.
Who cares most for sugar workers today? All who can garner their votes in 2020!
God- and the villages
An excuse and apology again: I’ll return to this (fascinating) subject before the year ends (I’ve mis-managed this space.)
However, our Brigadier President- as eminent historian, delivered very recently a stimulating address on the occasion of the still little-publicised “national day of villages.” At our first village Victoria on the Eastern Sea Coast in Demerara he revealed numerous historical highlights and national consequences.
A few caught my fancy: Buxton-Friendship villagers stopped the Governor’s train to protest excessive rates and taxation (Allan Fenty has a children’s publication on that); Greater Victoria hosted the country’s first agriculture exhibitions through its pioneering Agricultural Society! Two out of every three Guyanese still live in villages. But it is the innovation of the first villagers’ Christian faith which (still) intrigues me. Historian Granger tells of Victoria’s first proprietors, as part of their covenant/prototype, built churches! Religion informed their every foundation stone.
They loved Queen Victoria. How misguided were they? Did the new, first Victorians forget slavery and African origins? Or was it their way of thanking a God of the Europeans? Stay right tuned!
Because today’s “Africans” have just established an African Business Chamber/Roundtable. An ABC (African Business Council) was tried by Brother Eric a few years ago. Will Historian Granger’s Ministry of Business assist now? Will the new Chamber accept Amerindian and Portuguese business persons? Why? Why not? Lovely issues to explore next year.
What’s “Best” for Bartica?
Just spent a brief but “stimulating” week-end in Bartica. Even experienced fleeting encounters saying a long hello, with both Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the new Green Town. Our President, through his policeman father, has nostalgic roots in Bartica – the once Douglah Town, still gateway to our gold and diamonds.
But I’m told that since the elections the President, has not actually sat down with the hinterland citizens to promote his beloved green township. He sends surrogates who might receive only good news from the APNU–loyalists. I know development takes time. But despite beautiful (“imagine”) bill boards depicting huge bridges and even ecological skyscrapers (!) the road to Byderabo is disgraceful.
The potential tourist attractions and natural ecological green facilities make for a vibrant hinterland community and wider region. I was told that Rear Admiral Gary Best, presumably the President’s top legal environmentalist, is to play a lead role in “greening Bartica”. Time will reveal if he is the “best choice” for Bartica. If not Barticians themselves
.1) I leave Budget 2016 considerations to brighter 2017 minds. But why did I feel that “Budget Blues” are enveloping even the APNU+AFC loyalists, at least in the short term?
.2) By February 2017 acquire the old co-op bank building in Stabroek for the displaced, misplaced vendors.
.3) Coming also: Fatherless homes for Christmas.
’Til next week!