The confusion that has emerged regarding the appointment of a new Board of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) has brought, once again, to the fore what could only be described as the Administration’s shifting goalpost approach to the sugar industry. It can well be argued that the Coalition Government’s approach to many pressing matters of national importance is also incoherent and our policymakers are reactive rather than being proactive.
While I will refrain from commenting on the individuals supposedly named, though I have reservations, the bungling mess that has ensued is sadly symptomatic of our Administration. When one looks at the Administration’s changing positions regarding sugar, it is not difficult to reach such conclusions.
Recall, the Sugar Commission of Inquiry. The APNU/AFC manifesto said the “APNU+AFC will convene a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Guyana Sugar Corporation… [to] review, analyze and recommend the way forward for the Guyana Sugar Industry, including options for infusing critical investments and the optimum utilisation of its valuable capital infrastructure”. The Government on appointing that Commission of Inquiry said in a GINA report of June 26, 2015 that “…the eleven-member Commission…will develop a 15-year plan which is expected to bring the industry back to profitability to ensure long-term environmental and economic sustainability.” Then who can forget Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo saying at the National Cane Farmers Conference, according to an August 15, 2015 news report, that “…there was no question of Government scaling down or abandoning the industry”.
After all of that and in spite the Sugar Commission saying no estate should be closed, the Government decided to close Wales Estate and President David Granger, in the January 26, 2016, is reported to have said that “The COI is not gospel”.
Though from the previous statements, in the pre and post May, 2015 election, rationally one could conclude that the COI would guide the Administration’s approach to sugar. The President, went further saying “arrangements are going to be made over the next 11 months to ensure that the workers don’t get hurt, that they can be reemployed”. Well, we all know how that turned out and today the Wales workers, the cane farmers and their dependents have been hurt and remain jobless.
Then after all that, President Granger, in the February 05, 2016 Guyana Chronicle, said “…it’s unlikely that (closure of another estate) is contemplated”. But just months after, the Government announced that Skeldon was to be sold and Rose Hall and Enmore closed.
The President in the Chronicle article also reportedly said “…the CoI report would be discussed in the National Assembly, after which there would be a national consultation on the state of the sugar industry”. Again, time has shown that the President’s undertaking was unfulfilled.
It should not be forgotten that the Government earlier this year voted against a motion which called for the Sugar COI report to be discussed by the Economic Services Committee.
And, there was no national consultation as the President committed would be done. In fact, the sugar unions in spite of their efforts have contended that their engagements with the Administration remained wanting.
Now the Government, in an about-turn of sorts, has decided to divest Rose Hall and Enmore rather than close those estates and move into diversification activities as it initially decided.
Nevertheless, nearly 5,000 workers have been sent home and entire communities are now finding themselves in troubled waters. Furthermore, the diversification activities at Wales, it appears, have been shelved after millions of dollars were spent and hundreds of man and machine hours expended. And we are now told that $30 billion is required for GuySuCo over the next four (4) years.
When one looks at the totality of the Government’s confused, disjointed and not well-thought-out adventure in the sugar industry one reaches the sad conclusion that the Government was not and is not serious about the sugar industry and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods.
The ‘seat of your pants’ decision-making as we have seen playing out cannot be the modus operandi of any Government especially when the implications are so terrible. As the APNU+AFC said during the 2015 campaign “IT IS TIME” that our leaders stop jetting off to exotic lands and take time to work in the interest of the people and our country.