The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) has established a Coordinating Committee for its ‘Sustainable and Resilient Communities Programme’ and ‘Alternative Livelihoods Initiative’ in the wake of around 5,000 of its employees losing their jobs over the last two years.
Four of its estates have been shuttered in a massive restructuring.
In a release yesterday, GuySuCo said that the target groups for the programme are ex-employees of GuySuCo, their families and residents from communities in the vicinity of Wales, Rose Hall, Enmore and Skeldon Estates which have been closed.
The Coordinating Committee comprises senior technical experts from relevant Government agencies and these include the Ministries of Agriculture and Public Health – Mental Health and Men’s Health Units; Ministries of Social Protection, Communities and Education; Ministry of Business, Small Business Bureau; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Public Security – Citizens’ Security Strengthening Programme; Ministry of the Presidency – Department of Social Cohesion, Culture, Youth and Sports and National Trust.
In addition to the technical experts who attended the meeting, GuySuCo said the special guest was Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. It said that Ramjattan stated in his address that, “the Ministry of Public Security is very keen on supporting the programme, since it is an extremely important preventative initiative”. He further noted that “the more economically and socially resilient communities are the more the impact on crime reduction will be positive, as well as other social and economic issues associated with crime”.
The APNU+AFC government and Ramjattan’s party, the AFC have been severely criticised by the sugar union, GAWU and workers over the loss of thousands of jobs in the industry and the fact that few alternatives have been presented despite numerous pledges.
The GuySuCo release said that the Economic Resilience Sub-committee will be chaired by Dr. Lowell Porter, Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Bureau; the Social Resilience Sub-committee will be chaired by Dr. Allister Collins, Executive Officer, President’s Youth Award Republic of Guyana (PYARG) and Co-chaired by Whentworth Tanner, a Director at the Ministry of Social Protection; the chairperson for the Environmental Resilience Sub-committee is still to be named.
The release said that the terms of reference for the Coordinating Committee and Sub-committees are to lead, coordinate and monitor the transitioning of the targeted sugar-dependent communities towards becoming sustainable; provide oversight for the Sustainable Communities Fund which is to enable start-ups of businesses, training, technical support and aligning new business ventures to national and regional development focus areas; such as the Green Economy (the Green State Development Strategy), the Ministry of Business’ – 2016 – 2020 Strategic Plan, the Guyana Food Security Strategy, the CARICOM Regional Food and Nutritional Security Policy and other economic activities.
The committee will also oversee the establishment of partnerships with international, regional and national agencies to support the transitioning of these sugar-dependent communities; and they are expected to meet at least once monthly.
The committee will also continue the initiatives which were started by GuySuCo and other agencies. Current projects include: the European Union funded study to transition ex-employees into farmers; the Ministry of Natural Resources funded project in partnership with the Board of Industrial Training and the GuySuCo Training Centre/Port Mourant (GTC/PM) in Motor Vehicle Services and Minor Repairs, Welding and Fabrication, Refrigeration and Electrical Installation; the Small Business Bureau funded training at the Guyana Industrial Training Centre (GITC) in plumbing, masonry and carpentry; among others.
Projects to be funded, the release said, include training in forestry management areas and ‘management of Community Forestry Concessions’; training in carpentry, masonry, garment construction and food preparation at the Upper Corentyne Technical Institute, among others.