Expensive overseas trips should be justified

Dear Editor,
It was reported in the news media on April 12 that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has flown to Costa Rica and was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority and the General Manager of the Guyana Marketing Corporation to discuss support for the agricultural sector in Guyana.
Tourism is the main foreign exchange earner for Costa Rica with bananas, pineapples and coffee as its major agricultural crops. It has no livestock development. Guyana’s main agricultural crops are sugar and rice. Their improved productivity can only come through mechanisation, development of high yielding plants and lower labour costs. Competitiveness has to come from lower cost of production. Hence there is no commonality with respect to the agricultural sector between the two countries and, therefore it is difficult to comprehend as claimed, that the objectives of Minister Holder’s visit are to improve productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector thereby contributing to the development and well-being of the rural population since the crops grown by each country are dissimilar.
Minister Holder has been in office for nearly a year, done little so far and has no comprehensive plan to develop and improve agriculture, the most important sector in Guyana. The Report on the Commission of Inquiry into the sugar industry is still under wraps without any decision taken to implement/reject the recommendations. Presently, there is drought in Regions Two and Three with no concerted effort made by the Ministry of Agriculture to provide rice farmers with some water to save their seedlings while there is flooding in parts of Region Six which has destroyed crops to be reaped because the drainage system is clogged for want of maintenance. The sugar industry is in a downward spiral with no alternative plan in sight for its rescue, particularly for Wales Estate and its impending displaced workers. The Hope Canal is still not functional as per its design requirements.
President Granger should let the poor people of Guyana know why so many of his Ministers with large entourages are making frequent expensive overseas trips which the country could ill afford to achieve marginal benefits while neglecting to address the problems at home for which they were appointed to resolve. “Charity begins at home” and, therefore, our elected representatives should not be allowed to make luxurious trips abroad for questionable purposes and no clear-cut objective to benefit the country.

Yours truly,
Charles Sohan