-electricity production, other prospects being explored for sugar industry
Some $5billion has been earmarked in the 2020 National Budget for the revamping of the sugar industry, which was torpedoed by the APNU+AFC Government.
Since taking office in 2015, the now-ousted APNU+AFC Administration had sought to destroy the sugar industry to the most “nefarious ends”, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Parliamentarian and trade unionist, Mr. Seepaul Narine told the House during the Budget debates.
In his presentation, Mr. Narine said the industry took a major dip in the last five years, with the Guyana Sugar Corporation Incorporated (GuySuCo) recording its worst production rate in 2019.
Further, he said, the APNU+AFC Coalition’s move to close several sugar estates in 2017 resulted in the largest retrenchment exercise in Guyana’s post-independence history. Despite justifying the retrenchment of hundreds of labourers as necessary for retooling the sugar industry, more than 100 new persons were employed in varying positions at GuySuCo’s Head Office, under the Coalition, Mr. Narine said.
“Before the closure, at the Head Office, they had 395 persons employed. After the closure, they had 505 people despite four estates being closed,” the Parliamentarian disclosed.
According to Mr. Narine, this demonstrates that the Coalition was not thinking about the ‘small man’. “They were the least concerned about how these Guyanese citizens would eat, send their children to school and pay their bills,” he said.
The Parliamentarian also lamented that equipment valued billions of dollars were left to rot in the sun and rain at the closed estates. Further, he said, the Coalition neglected to raise salaries for sugar workers even after increasing pay for all state employees over the past five years.
“The darkness and gloom that hovered over the sugar industry over the last five years will disappear as the dawn of a new era unfolds under this PPP/C Government,” Mr. Narine said, even as he highlighted efforts by the new Government to reverse the previous Administration’s errors.
Moreover, the PPP/C Government is also keen on capitalising on other productive sectors that can be realised from revamping the sugar industry.
“The industry has several possibilities for success; opportunities for electricity production, refined and packaged sugar, alcohol and bottled molasses, among other things assured of a successful and viable future…. As someone who has been closely associated to the sugar industry for many years and more so the struggle of the sugar workers their families and their communities, the Budget was a breath of fresh air,” Mr. Narine told the House.
His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali since his election to office, has taken steps to ensure that the reopening of sugar estates is soon realised.
Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, who had been tasked with ensuring the estates’ timely reopening, has since commenced works to advance the reopening of the Skeldon, Rose Hall, and Enmore estates. The Minister has been consulting with members of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union and technical officials on the sustainable rehabilitation of the estates.