Wales feeling the squeeze a year after estate closure

Gordon Thomas (at centre) along with the other ex-Wales Estate workers and representatives of workers on October 10 at the GAWU head office called on the government to help those Wales workers who had lost their jobs.

Residents and business owners from the West Bank Demerara community of Wales and its environs say that since the closure of the estate, business has declined drastically and the community is now left “like a crying child missing its mother.”

The Wales Estate has been closed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for more than a year and the residents of the community and its environs say that they have noticed a drastic decrease in business and money flowing through the community, which has made Christmas bleak for them.

Stabroek News visited the quiet communities of Sisters, Wales and Patentia on Wednesday morning. On a normal day, Wales, the community which depended heavily on the sugar industry, would be busy and bustling with residents and other persons moving to and fro. Shops and other places of business, including the market, would be occupied and full of  chatter and the sounds of       vehicles.

However, Wednesday was different and the community was quiet and still and while some residents said that it was because of the long weekend, which included Christmas Day and Boxing Day, others said that the community was still feeling the ripple effects from the closure of the estate.

“Wales right now is a like a crying child missing its mother. He’s going to keep crying and crying but he mother ain’t coming back,” Balkaran Singh, a resident, told Stabroek News on Wednesday. He said that ever since the estate had been closed, the community has been in freefall.

“Some people might doubt it and others might close their eyes and choose to ignore it but this has been happening since they close it. Slowly you see everything start dying and people stop spending so what did you expect to happen at Christmas?” Singh explained.

“Maybe is the weather cause it raining all the time through the whole season and that does ruin everything but Christmas this year de real flat. You barely see people put up decorations and thing. Back in the days, even last year and before dem people used to go all out and decorate and you would feel like is Christmas but is like the Grinch come this year and carry way everything,” another resident said, while explaining that this year he had noticed a significant drop in the number of houses that sported Christmas decorations.

One shop owner also explained to Stabroek News that she has noticed a significant decrease in her sales throughout the year and especially during the Christmas season.

“Like couple months after the Estate closed you didn’t notice much of a difference but as the year started to wind down and everything hit you saw the people starting to buy less and then you thought by Christmas it would’ve picked up back but it didn’t and you noticed the difference. People were hesitant to spend because there were so many people without jobs. People only were concerned about saving and didn’t want to spend unnecessary,” a resident, who also owns a grocery store in the community said.

Ramesh Sookhoo, one of the sugar workers who was made redundant as a result of the closure of the estate, alluded to the notion of there being less spending. He explained that since he received his severance pay, he has been “pinching it.”

“We can’t spend it out wild, wild. We gotto think about the future and if we want to see a next Christmas then we have to go through some hard times this one because if we spend out the money then what we gon use next year? Is all of them things people gotto think about and that is why everything seem so slow and dead,” Sookhoo said, while pointing out that he has been unable to find a stable job since the Wales Estate has closed and has only been able to do odd jobs around the community while living on his severance pay.

Many other workers also echoed similar sentiments, and along with residents they say that they expect the community to continue tumbling until it cannot be recognized. They also highlighted that petty crime has also increased and persons are being forced to do different things for money in order to survive.

“People miss their jobs. People miss the estate and the community misses the estate like a child misses its mother and while most have not completely accepted it, people are now coming to terms with the reality of things and this Christmas was an example,” Singh said.

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