GAWU responds to Finance Minister

Dear Editor,
The GAWU has seen and considered the statements of Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan expressed in the August 5 Stabroek News article titled “GuySuCo diversification delayed – Jordan”. The article, we gather, is the latest in the series of articles published by the newspaper arising from a wide-ranging interview with the Minister on a host of matters under his stewardship.
Through the latest instalment of the interview, our Union was gravely disappointed to learn that the planned diversification programme, with respect to the estates under the stewardship of GuySuCo, has been delayed. From the news report, we gather that the Minister indicated that the initiatives to construct co-generation plants have been shelved for the time being as emphasis is placed on other areas.
While we noted that the Minister did not specifically identify where the previously allocated co-generation monies would be spent, he did disclose, we saw, that the sums would be used to hasten the State-owned estates’ return to viability. While we welcome every and all workable and considered efforts to restore the industry to a viable and sustainable state, the Minister’s admission is yet another sad twist in the confused road the industry has been taking in recent times.
The fact that NICIL-SPU will have to now approach bondholders to receive their proverbial ‘blessing’ to re-jig the utilisation of the $30 billion bond only serves to confirm, yet again, that absent was any plan to properly utilise the large sum. It is the absence of such a plan, in our view, that was the source of the animosity that spilled over into the public arena between the NICIL-SPU and the GuySuCo.
As may well be recalled, the GAWU, on several occasions, has reiterated that, from our point of view, there appeared to be no plan regarding the expenditure. We should add that our concerted and consistent attempts to engage the Corporation on its plan was stonewalled, it seemed, at every turn. Now, the admission that the bond proceeds have to be adjusted only serves to further confirm our suspicions.
This latest episode is yet another indication that the powers-that-be are either clueless or unconcerned, or maybe both, as they address the sugar industry. It must not be forgotten, that the industry, in spite of the reduced scale, is still the nation’s largest employer. It is also a significant source of sustenance in rural Guyana. This clear fact has been demonstrated by the vacuum created in the communities of the closed sugar estates.
It is saddening to recognise the reality that more than one year has elapsed and millions of dollars, so far, have been paid to bondholders as interest and there is, apparently, no tangible utilisation of the invested sums. This, for us, is not a matter of great comfort. What’s even more disheartening is that the latest admission comes just a mere week after no lesser than President David Granger, himself, had said he wanted the sugar industry to thrive. While the President is saying one thing, we see completely different actions coming from the other officials of the Granger Administration.
Certainly, and undoubtedly, it is hard to really give credence to what the Government is saying about the sugar industry any longer. Remember the now-a-day governmental leaders told the Guyanese electorate prior to their election to office, that “Sugar was too big to fail”. The reality is that they were less than truthful as the industry was minimised and thousands lost their jobs. We cannot afford any further miniaturisation and a clearly workable plan is not an option but an imperative.

Yours faithfully,
Seepaul Narine
General Secretary