President David Granger yesterday told East Bank Berbice villagers that payment of severance to thousands of ex sugar workers is drawing funding away from services.
Granger yesterday at a community meeting held at Sisters Village, East Bank Berbice told those gathered, that his government went into office with a lot of bright hope in May, 2015, but that over the last three years they had had to spend over $32B to bail out the country’s sugar industry. However, the President said, “I’m not blaming the corporation, I’m not blaming the workers, I’m not even blaming the previous administration”.
He noted that a decision was made to have only three major estates in operation “and maintain as many workers as possible in those three big estates but right now the government is haemorrhaging with the payment we have to make and that haemorrhaging has sucked funds from other services”, he said.
Granger then assured that his government is working to ensure that jobs are safe within the sugar industry.
The president also told those gathered that the government plans to implement streetlights throughout the East Bank of Berbice. He highlighted the improvement in potable water and road works within the area.
“Lights is not a luxury, lights is a necessity and we will continue to work, everything is not possible right away but we will continue to work village by village”, he stressed. The president also told those gathered that over the recent years they have started to see change although it might have been slow. “A lot that will happen over the next two to five years will depend on our capabilities to revitalize the village economy”, he said.
Meanwhile, he also stressed, that as long as he is president of the country he will ensure that local government elections happen as per schedule. He told the gathering, that he believes that they have a right to elect their own leaders.
“I promise the nation and I promise you that as long as I am president local government elections will occur whenever they fall”. He added, “I did not postpone local government election, I cannot postpone something you are entitled too… it is something that is embedded in the constitution, like your rights and liberty, your right to elect leaders of your choice”.
He further highlighted that although the opposition PPP/C had won the majority of the neighbourhood democratic councils and municipalities in Region Six, a group of chairmen from the various NDCs invited him to Fyrish Village, Corentyne earlier in the year so as to discuss local issues.
“They had dirty water in the pipes, they complained about lights in the communities, they complained about telephones, they complained about potholes, they complained about bridges”.
He said that two months after that meeting a national conference on local democratic organs was implemented so that all of the NDCs could come together and deal with their various issues, since local government deals solely with local issues. “You have the power through local government elections to improve those commissions”. “… and that is why I am committed to having local government elections regularly as the constitution calls for”.
Meanwhile, he further told those gathered to mobilize and ensure that they register as well as educate themselves in their respective constituency for the elections.
“If we don’t do that we find people moving large numbers from one constituency to the next, local government election is exactly what it says that you have to be local residents”. He also told the residents, “You don’t vote for race, you don’t even vote for political parties, you vote for your community, you vote for improvement in your community, that’s what you vote for”.
He added, “Naturally I belong to a political party and I will support people who support my views but at the same time all of you must vote (for) people in your community who are capable of representing you”.
Additionally, the president noted that the country also has to consider the economic side of local government while explaining that programmes must be put in place throughout the country to have grants given to young persons who have finished school in order for them to operate their own enterprises.
“The villages on the East Bank in fact the villages throughout the Corentyne could become economic power houses, so that they can help to keep the young residents in those communities and not only provide employment for them but also to enrich them and this can be a function of local government”.