Govt should rethink closure of Sugar Estates, says PSC

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The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it continues to be dismayed at Government’s decision to pursue the closure of sugar estates as the only solution to the crisis in the sugar industry.

The Skeldon Sugar Factory

According to the PSC it had proposed to Government in August of this year that they enter into a public-private partnership for investment in and management of selected estates as a probable and effective alternative to closure.

“Indeed, it was our clear understanding, at a meeting the Commission held with Mr. Colvin Heath-London of NICIL, that the Government had determined to pursue such an option.”

The PSC continued that “sugar has been the major employer of Guyanese for over a century and, until these drastic measures were taken, continued to be the largest employer of our labour force.  Yet, unbelievably, our Government has no definitive plan to rescue the industry nor save its workers from unemployment and from the ensuing hardship which will inevitably result…While the decision to close has been announced, we are again asking our Government to recognise the ensuing hardships placed on the communities served by and dependent on sugar and the consequential damage to the economy as a whole.”

Hundreds of workers attached to the East Demerara Estate (EDE) located in Enmore, East Coast Demerara, have been issued termination letters by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), as the plans announced by Government earlier this year to close the sugar estate starts to take effect.

Earlier this month, termination letters were issued to over 2000 workers at the Skeldon Estate. This move follows on the heels of the similar notice given to Rose Hall Estate workers about one week prior.

In May 2017, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.

In November, GuySuCo announced plans to retrench 2500 workers by the end of this year.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) had said the downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs, and the potential threat of poverty for between 50,000 and 100,000 people.

The PSC said it is pleading with the APNU/AFC Government once more to “think again.”

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