Government should accept offers from India to run the sugar factories and for GuySuCo workers to grow the cane

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to a missive captioned ‘GuySuCo can be saved’ (SN, Mar 9) where former President Donald Ramotar argues that the sugar industry can be saved and closed estates reopened. He posits that the industry needs better management, technical assistance and some capitalization to enable it to operate efficiently. He claims that the government of India has agreed to provide aid, addressing all of the preceding recommendations to rehabilitate and transform the industry to make it profitable. The latter has not been disputed since President Granger announced on January 26 at an India Republic Day reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador in George-town that the Indian government offered technical assistance and loans to GuySuCo

I totally agree with Mr Ramotar’s assessment of the ills of the industry and his recommendations for its rescue. I was also able to confirm that the Indian government has indeed offered assistance to rescue the sugar industry. The critical question is why isn’t this PNC-led government willing to save the industry and by extension over 20,000 jobs. Another equally important question is since Mr Ramotar and his predecessor Mr Bharrat Jagdeo knew of the ailments in the industry and the requisite solution, why didn’t they implement it? The offer of aid from India has been pending since the time of the Ramotar presidency and was renewed under this administration. Mr Ramotar should have accessed the aid right away before calling the snap election. He put his party’s supporters at risk in calling an early election without securing their interests, and of course their jobs.

Mr Ramotar’s assessment and recommendations are not new. Mr Ravi Dev, myself and others made similar recommendations (in the public domain) on transforming the sugar industry. We did the same during the Jagdeo presidency. In addition, we recommended that the Jagdeo, Ramotar and David Granger governments give the land to the workers. Under our plan, private management (from India) would run the factory and the workers as new owners would supply the cane. In fact, I discussed this model with several sugar industrialists in India and they supported it. That is the model used in several states in India and it has been very effective; the workers, small land owners, and private management earn huge profits. There are several companies in India willing to invest in the Guyana sugar industry under this model. The sugar industry in India does not need government bailouts, and the same would have been the case in Guyana had it been adopted by the PPP and now this administration. It was noted that the PPP had issues giving land to sugar workers as it would have created a new ‘kulak’ class which is anathema to communism.

This and the preceding administration have let down sugar workers. It is not too late to save the sugar industry and by extension thousands of jobs. The government should access the sugar assistance from India and distribute the estate land to sugar workers to become cane farmers. They should not be fearful of workers if they become a landed class. So what if they are kulaks? The communists in Guyana and around the world have become wealthy capitalists off the backs of the proletariat. The workers’ success will help to transform the economy making them independent of government assistance, while contributing billions in taxes to the coffers. Please accept offers from India to run the sugar estates and for GuySuCo workers to grow the cane as new owners of the land.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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