The government should create the equivalent of the LEAP project for the sugar industry crisis

Dear Editor,

The Indian Action Committee (IAC), in a press release issued in March 2017, expressed the organization’s extreme concern regarding the distressed state of the sugar industry in Guyana, especially in light of the anxieties oppressing the minds of thousands of sugar workers whose livelihoods were seen to be in jeopardy as rumours of the closure of a number of sugar estates permeated the society. The IAC, eight months later has witnessed and is continuing to witness the despair of the workers of Wales, Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon sugar estates, all of which  were closed after March 2017.

The IAC, in anticipation of the severe economic problems that would beset thousands of unemployed sugar workers, urged the Government of Guyana to pay those workers who would become unemployed due to estate closure their severance which is due to them by law; to retrain these unemployed workers using monies that would otherwise have been used to upkeep these now closed estates; and to transfer a portion of lands of these estates to the unemployed workers so that they could make a new start in life and independently seek their own economic well-being.

The IAC recognizes the National Budget 2018 as being the largest in the history of the country and is confident that monies can be found to ensure that these thousands of dislocated sugar workers do not suffer any extended period of economic deprivation with the negative consequences for individuals, families, and society as a whole that come with these extreme circumstances.

The IAC, which is not in the business of solving the problems of the sugar industry, nevertheless feels strongly that the organization must raise its voice in defence of all those sugar workers and their families, their dependents and all other persons who will be indirectly adversely affected by their dislocation. This is especially so since the vast majority of these persons appear to be voiceless and since those organizations which had benefited for decades from the moral and financial support of these ordinary workers have seemingly fallen silent as these generally diehard supporters begin to despair.

The IAC believes that the time has come for the government and the company to set out in clear language what they plan to do to safeguard the livelihoods of the workers and the communities.

The IAC wishes to remind the government that when the bauxite industry was in crisis prior to the arrival of Rusal and Bosai the then government with financial support from the European Union established LEAP (Linden Economic Advance-ment Programme) to support Linden and the rest of Region Ten in those depressed times of economic despair; the organization is calling upon the coalition government to establish a similar entity to deal with the sugar industry in its current crisis.

The IAC, in conclusion, is adamant that if the coalition government goes ahead and privatizes a number of the sugar estates, some remedial plan for the workers of the industry and other beneficiaries, would provide them with a viable option to benefit from the divestment of GuySuCo.

Yours faithfully,

Saira Alli

Secretary/Coordinator

Indian Action Committee

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