Outspoken political commentator and Charted Accountant Christopher Ram has described some of the harrowing tales that have resulted from the closures of several estates across country which came via Government’s downsizing of the sugar industry owing the billions of dollars in subsidised allocations.
Ram opined that the current Administration should have implemented the industry’s overhaul in a phased manner as opposed to the four closures within one year.
Wales was officially closed in December 2016 and the closures of East Demerara (Enmore), Skeldon and Rose Hall were finalised by December 2017 although the latter three were reopened under limited operations via the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited’s (NICIL) Special Purpose Unit (SPU).
Since then, Ram has been facilitating a donation drive to the children of ex-workers of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The items have included bicycles, haversacks and stationery supplies. From his vantage point, the accountant imparted that the closures have facilitated social ills owing the fact the inhabitants of the various communities built their lives from their earnings in the sugar industry.
“The people need employment; they need support and it seems that they’re almost forgotten and its cynical, it’s callous and it’s cruel. The problem in those areas is that they’re almost single industry communities which have been built for decades and decades around sugar and you can’t take away their lifeline, the very essence of the community and think that you have solved the problem and you’ve created some extremely costly social problems,” he observed.
Ram also pointed out a disturbing scene whereby he saw persons fishing in nearby drains during one of his many visits and it was explained that this was for their sustenance.
Speaking from a fiscal perspective, Ram pondered why the country’s budget deficit is higher in spite of the rationalisation objectives. He added that there was “no question” that some realignment was necessary in the sugar industry but said it not only should have been phased but well planned.
“What we have is chaos, confusion and misdirection, particularly led by NICIL which has only added to the confusion,” he said.
Ram outlined that based on the information he obtained, some of the children are inclined to miss classes as they lack school uniforms and lack basic meals. “Teachers are pooling money to give a meal to children. That child is a human being who is going to grow into an adult and what is he or she going to do?” he asked.
Prior to the closures, observers including the political Opposition were calling for social impact studies to be conducted beforehand. Now that Government went ahead with its cost-cutting measures, many of the workers have held out that they are finding great difficulty in attaining well-paying and consistent employment. Some are of the view that these communities should be allocated subsidies for travel, text books, electricity and water owing to the vacuum that came to the fore when the industry was slashed.
More than that, workers at Wales, were waiting almost two years for their severance pay due to their refusal to take up work at the Uitvlugt Estate which is 22 miles away from their homes. Though they were finally paid this month with interest, many parents said that in the interim they could not have afforded to send their children to school on a consistent basis. (Shemuel Fanfair)