According to media reports, Finance Minister Winston Jordan is seeking to raise between $10 and $15 billion to restore the viability of the operations of Enmore and Rose Hall Estates.
This money could have been better spent to maintain the operations and at the same time preserve the jobs and livelihoods of the thousands of laid-off sugar workers.
I have in several letters to the press argued that the decision to close the sugar estates was a monumental mistake which would prove costly to the economy. Moreover, by closing down the sugar estates the real estate value of the assets would depreciate substantially which could amount to billions by way of a reduced market price.
This is voodoo economics at its best. After paying out billions by way of severance pay the government is now going to spend billions more to the entity which could have been better spent to enhance the technical and operational efficiency of the sugar estates in the first place.
Basic common sense was ignored and workable proposals emanating from key stakeholders including the workers’ union GAWU were disregarded. The administration went ahead and closed three of the sugar estates with devastating consequences for workers and their families. There were no alternative plans to absorb or redeploy the affected workers. And to add salt to injury, laid off workers at Wales Estate are still to receive their severance benefits while others were only partially paid.
I will maintain my position that the decision to close the sugar estates was ill-advised, short-sighted, counter-productive and certainly not in the best national interest. Like it or not, sugar to a very large extent still remains the sheet anchor of the economy and has historically played a leading role in the economy of the country, so much so that the history of this country can truly be said to be a history of sugar.
It is not too late for the government to rethink its position on sugar.