The scare tactics being used by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to agitate sugar workers needs to be challenged. We can do better, and the workers must be educated that modernization and diversification is not a death sentence or guaranteed unemployment.
The policy of the PPP/C Administration and the politically controlled management of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) of simply throwing taxpayer dollars at the industry’s problems must end. A Partnership for National Unity has made repeated calls for GuySuCo to produce a credible ‘turnaround plan’. The industry has received over $500 billion in subsidies over a period of ten years. President Donald Ramotar has admitted that the industry cannot meet its cost, or pay its bills without Government support. The failure of successive politically dominated GuySuCo Boards cannot be over looked. The PPP/C cannot expect to do the same thing over and over again and expect a differ result.
GuySuco needs a Board whose members have been carefully selected and who have the personal integrity to be able to avoid financial conflicts of interest. GuySuCo needs Board members who understand large scale labour management and a working knowledge of the sugar industry. GuySuCo needs a Board that is chaired by someone who can set long and short term goals to improve the viability of the sugar industry.
It is time that the people of Guyana forge a new relationship with sugar, taking an example from our Brazilian neighbours. Most of the industrial processing of sugarcane in Brazil is done through a very integrated production chain, allowing sugar production, and industrial ethanol processing and electricity generation from by-products.
The history of sugar is in large part the history of Guyana. Our African and Indian ancestors built the industry as slaves, indentured labourers and free-men. Today the industry provides employment for all Guyanese regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. For this sector to survive, the PPP/C must stop playing politics with sugar and start acting as responsible national leaders.