Obvious opportunities in sugar are being ignored

Dear Editor,

A study was done by the US corps of engineers concerning the drinkable water available in Guyana. This study covers the water’s location, quality and quantity. It should be well noted that most of this water can be found in Berbice near the coast. Such an area should be considered off limits for oil exploration as it will help prevent any risk of contamination of this crucial resource.

This also begs the question, how much oil is enough for the given risks associated with it? We have a neighbour who has the largest reserves and yet they are impoverished. We have an exploration that already is supposed to be successful and yet we don’t know if profit is to be made, because of lack of clarity on decommissioning costs. Then there is the climate and environment which is currently becoming unstable due to increased oil and natural gas usage. So how much is enough to make the money they need, and note it is need not want (assuming they also need independence from oil importation), while also maintaining the climate. This delicate balance is also reflected in the price of oil as conversion to renewables reduces demand and thus further impacting profitability.

Another way of looking at this in layman’s terms is that they are destroying everything the money is spent on to build it back, if you consider the trends of hurricanes and earthquakes. Thus the money quickly disappears. Florida is a great example of this sad process. There is something to be said about not having hurricanes and earthquakes, while still enjoying beautiful tropical weather and healthy food that is not contaminated. This has always been Guyana’s beauty and envy to the world. Let’s think about how invaluable that is. It is unmatched world-wide!

A recent article on the devastating effects of oil contamination in Peru and how it has caused the deaths of children should give us all pause and encourage us to think carefully upon the negative impact we could have on ourselves and our neighbours in this Caribbean and South American community.

So, not much money to be made, and there is proof that it can be easily taken away, coupled with the risk of destroying our homeland and that of others. Please tell me again why are we so happy to go down this road? The EU members have already expressed interest in helping us not make these mistakes, but at the end of the day we must make the decision to take the high road and think long term about the impact of our decisions.

Walking away from the old in pursuit of the new as seen in the abandonment of the sugar industry is not the strategy of good governance. Let’s take a closer look at what is happening.

The sugar we make is sold primarily in bulk, while on the shelves in North America they have Enmore like crystals known as “Sugar in the Raw” selling at US$2 a lb. No strong efforts to commercialize our product has been undertaken. Mauritius is selling aggressively under the Demerara Sugar name and seeing increased profit as stated in their sugar industry’s annual report. Their product can be found in a number of luxury consumables on supermarket shelves. Yet nothing is done to take advantage of opportunities such as the visit of the head of Walmart, who has a strong global presence with many successful retail outlets that we could capitalize upon for the sale of our sugar. It is not that hard to come up with a nice package and a good marketing plan. It just doesn’t make sense. Better decisions need to be made to foster sustainable long term growth of our economy.

Now the hope is to privatize. If private owners can make this business profitable then the issue is not only cost reduction, but the ability to capitalize on opportunities to sell the product for a profit. Being in the Government to serve the people should not be about drawing the nation’s assets and resources to make money for yourself and your friends. However I may be wrong, but it is hard to believe that these obvious opportunities are not being capitalized upon by such intelligent people over so many years. (You decide which timeframe is relevant.  It is hard for me to mark the difference when it comes to this industry). Instead we have these precious assets being neglected so as to reduce their value and make it a great deal for a buyer. What happened to representing the people’s best interest? At some point in time we must as a nation have the courage to ensure that there is the right balance in how we grow our economy while maintaining the beautiful in Beautiful Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Jamil Changlee

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