Back in the day, Paul Simon poignantly evoked the haunting recognition of unrealised dreams that eventually hit most of us as the years go by: “You know the nearer your destination/ The more you’re slip slidin’ away.” And it has ever been so for all who were dragged from their native lands in four continents to toil in the sugar plantations of Guyana.
The African slaves were told they had no “souls” and they’d be possibly “saved” if they were to serve their white masters faithfully. That promise certainly went “slip-slidin’ away” – even after the poor slaves were “emancipated” after centuries of toil, rape and humiliation. With their fields flooded, provision grounds seized and their imports and incomes taxed to pay for importing Indentureds – West Indians, Portuguese, Africans, Indians, Chinese – to undercut their bargaining power, they have never reached the “promised land”.
And fifty years after the white man departed, their native successors – the PNC-AFC government — keep on ensuring the dream of living with any sort of dignity, much less the “good life”, keep slip-slidin’ away for sugar workers. With them away from the bright lights of Georgetown — where the elite live and the media shine their spotlight — it is easy to forget that those 7000 sugar workers who were summarily fired have been plunged into lives of increasingly not-so-quiet desperation.
What we get when reading the papers are press releases about the “initiatives” that are supposed to ‘save” the rump industry, issued from air conditioned offices of the new massas.
Tough love!! The latest has been for the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) to borrow, in effect, $30 billion by issuing a 5-year bond that’s backstopped by the Government!! Now, if the Government bears the risk of default, why didn’t they issue T-Bills, as they can do at a lower rate of interest, and extend a loan to GuySuCo?? And they could’ve saved the massive bond-issuance costs!
The SPU further revealed they’ll use that US$150 million to “develop two co-generation facilities, upgrade the existing sugar factories to produce white sugar, restructure GuySuCo’s debt, and engage in training and education for the workers and management of GuySuCo.”
Now, isn’t this exactly what the Government’s CoI had recommended be done to bring the ENTIRE GuySuCo to a point of sale!??! But the PNC Government claimed they couldn’t put more money into the corporation – and promptly shuttered 4 estates and fired the aforementioned 7000 workers!!
With the SPU merrily borrowing money to ‘reorganise” GuySuCo but the Minister of Agriculture not recognising the Board the SPU boss created; and with no Board in place, the future of the remaining sugar workers keeps slip slidin’ away.
Along with the fired ones.
Something’s seriously wrong in the State of Guyana. Here it is, the PNC-Government’s pumping billions into the administration of UG under its ex-YSM, bow-tied VC and his CABINET, with all sorts of new technology and oil courses etc. But in the meantime, the teachers in the primary and secondary levels, who’re tasked with providing the student brains to justify those expenditures, haven’t been able to get their measly salaries adjusted since the Government slid into office with their support!!
Negotiations had gone on since 2016, when the GTU presented their proposal. President Granger sashayed down to their HQ last Independence Day and asked them to “bear strain” for his “High Task Force” to make its recommendation.
Which has since been made; and was sent to Cabinet, then sent to the Finance Ministry, where it seems to have dropped into the singularity of a Black Hole. From these — of course it is speculated — it would have emerged into an alternate universe!!
In the meantime, isn’t it time the GTU follow its membership’s advice and strike?
Well, after three years of blanking the Jagdeo-inspired AFHEP, the PNC’s finally gotten their hands on Norway’s US$130 million – which they’re putting into solar panels.
So, will they now thank Jagdeo for obtaining the Norway REDD funds? Don’t hold your breath!!