Sugar’s future is not bleak as it is being made out to be

Dear Editor,

Our Union has seen a report titled “APNU+AFC gov’t has been visionless – David Hinds” which appeared in the May 21, 2018 edition of Stabroek News. That news item, among other things, reports Dr David Hinds as saying in relation to the Government’s approach to the sugar industry that the Coalition “…must be commended for confronting the problem”. The WPA Executive and newspaper columnist, is then quoted to have said “[w]hile previous governments have kicked the ball down the road, this one decided to tackle the problem…”. In his comments, we also recognized that Dr Hinds decried the Administration’s failure to effectively communicate its approach to sugar.

The GAWU is supportive of everyone’s right to an opinion, a freedom that is now under seeming threat by the Cybercrime Bill as currently crafted. At the same time we cannot fail to place on record our strong disagreement with the apparent plaudits Dr Hinds is showering on the Administration for its destructive approach to the sugar industry and the well-being of thousands of Guyanese.

We wonder how one can be pleased when sugar workers are the only group of the State’s employees to have had their wages frozen since the APNU+AFC took power. Then the sugar workers have faced assault after assault with many of their hard won rights and benefits just taken away or ignored. Then after all of that, they are told that they are not needed and their jobs are taken away without any consideration about how they would survive. Certainly, in our view, it is not a situation in which one can commend, as Dr Hinds has done.

Moreover, the situation in the sugar belt need not be the way it is. There are real workable alternatives. We see GuySuCo itself borrowing $30B to make its estates viable by moving into greater diversification, something GAWU advocated and the Sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI) recommended. The fact that as many as 70 parties are interested in acquiring the now closed estates, described as unprofitable and inefficient, in our view, says a mouthful. The future is not bleak as it is being made out to be.  The fact that so many people are suffering and so many communities are finding themselves in difficult times is a situation that Guyanese, known for their concern for their fellow citizens, cannot take comfort or pride in. The absence of any consideration of the implications of the decisions taken and, more so, the absence of any compassion, or even regret, by the decision-makers of the sad situation they created are beyond any reasonable words.

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

General Secretary

GAWU

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