Budget debate day 2: $4B to GuySuCo will help repair “purposeful”, “vindictive” damage inflicted by APNU/AFC – GAWU President
…as Ramjattan insists closing estates was right decision
While the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) continue to hold out that the decision to close sugar estates and send home thousands of workers was the right one, the Government side of the National Assembly on Tuesday called them out for what it referred to as a “vindictive” act.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Seepaul Narine, who also serves as President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), used his budget debate presentation to throw his support behind the $781.9 billion budget.
Referring to the “divorced coalition”, Narine reminded the National Assembly that not so long ago, Guyanese had to pay taxes on water and electricity when the APNU/AFC was in power. And he also reminded them of the damage done to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
“As someone very close to the sugar industry, I laud the budget’s allocation of $4 billion towards GuySuCo. This support will continue the effort of repairing the purposeful and vindictive damage inflicted by the APNU/AFC when they were in Government.”
“The reorientation of the industry is moving apace. And I recognise the efforts to improve revenues, enhance efficiency and reduce costs. The expansion of the packaging plant at Blairmont and the construction of a new plant at Albion will undoubtedly enhance the industry’s march to sustainability,” Narine said.
According to Narine, the budget is one to be lauded. He pointed out that among other things, the budget ensures there are “no new taxes” to burden the lives of workers. On the contrary, he noted that the budget will put money into the hands of the citizens.
“For me, Mr Speaker, this is what makes Budget 2023 history-making and transformative. Never was it so exciting to be Guyanese and so much to expect. It is almost unbelievable that in such a short period, the Irfaan Ali-led Administration has reversed the nation from the lethargy that characterised our national space during the five years of the coalition.”
“Our workers stand to receive aggregately, more than $3 billion just through the improvement of the income tax threshold. In the interest of the workers too, our Government has continued not to levy any taxes on fuel… foregoing some $17 billion in revenue,” Narine further said.
In his debate presentation, AFC Leader and MP Khemraj Ramjattan held out that the former coalition Government was right to close the estates. In fact, he called the decision a “transformational” one.
“We are always going to have, especially with climate change, trouble with that sugar industry… you must now appreciate the transformational decision that was made to right size… what was transformational, was the right sizing of the sugar industry so that you don’t pour good money behind bad sectors, billions and billions of dollars.”
Ramjattan claimed that the Government’s allocation of $4 billion to the sugar industry was a waste of money. And despite the fact that sugar workers had to take the APNU/AFC to court for their severance payments, Ramjattan claimed that his then Government “gave them” their severance benefits.
“To spend so much money on sugar is pouring good money behind bad. Prior to this budget, we have spent approximately $13 billion. We’re today going to spend another $4 billion behind sugar. They’ve been advertising for jobs at Rose Hall and people are not coming.”
“We gave them (sugar workers) their severance benefits. If it’s going to drag an economy down we had to make the correct decision. That was transformational,” he said, calling the Government’s current policy of resuscitating and making sugar profitable a “road to nowhere.”
The former APNU/AFC Government had closed the Wales Sugar Estate in 2016, and subsequently shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates. This resulted in thousands of jobs being lost and only Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Estates being in operation.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had promised on the campaign trail to reopen these estates, and within weeks of being in office, had taken steps in this direction. This included the Administration inviting Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from investors. (G3)