PPP spent over $2B from sugar levy to keep bauxite industry alive – Nandlall
Both the sugar and bauxite industries were given priority statuses in their times of crises by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) when it was in office amidst claims by the APNU/AFC Government and their supporters that this was not the case.
This is according to former Attorney General and PPP Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall, who made his position clear on Saturday during a live broadcast of Globespan24x7.
Globespan24x7 hosted a discussion on bridging national unity in Guyana for which Nandlall and People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive, Aubrey Norton were the panellists.
“Every country has industries that ails over time. It is the responsibility of the Government depending on the magnitude of that industry, its impact on the economy, its impact on the citizenry to do that which is necessary to ameliorate the situation to aid the industry…the PPP has done that with sugar as we have done with bauxite,” Nandlall said in response to attacks by Norton that it was the PPP who destroyed the sugar industry in Guyana.
According to the PPP MP, when former President Desmond Hoyte was giving one of his last speeches shortly before general elections in 1992, he declared that the bauxite industry would be closed but it was the PPP that kept this industry alive for many years. To date, the bauxite industry is active but its workers are facing difficulties with their foreign employers.
Nandlall noted that this Government should be able to do much more than it presently is doing and has done for the workers in the bauxite industry as the PPP, during its tenure, never gave up on the same industry despite the challenges it faced.
“Over $2 billion was taken from sugar levy and pumped into bauxite industry to keep it alive until the divestment came… the PPP had a whole regime of poverty alleviation programmes designed, not on a racist or a racial basis, but targeting the various communities in Guyana because we did not craft policies or propagate initiatives based on ethnicity and race. We did it based on the economic environment and needs of these various communities.”
He further stated that the PPP gave over 1000 small logging concessions to Guyanese because they were affected with the bauxite industry being taken over by Guyana Bauxite Company Inc – owned by RUSAL and the Chinese company, Bosai, in previous years.
However, though it is the responsibility of the Government of the day to keep such vital industries alive and protect its workers’ rights, bauxite workers are still encountering major problems with working conditions and measly salaries and wages.
Recently, 61 workers were dismissed by the Russian-owned bauxite company, RUSAL, after they led a strike action, objecting to a one per cent salary increase. Subsequently, another 30 employees at that company were dismissed after the company had to temporarily close its operations in that department. The workers are all presently protesting against the company which they say has violated the laws of Guyana.
Their protests and picketing, along with those members of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union as well as other unions in Guyana, are geared at having them reinstated with a higher salary increase.
These dismissed and displaced bauxite workers have blocked off the access road from the Berbice River leading to the company’s operations and they have no plans of removing the blockages until their voices are heard and the Government takes action against RUSAL.
Since the issue arose, Government has been unable to resolve the issue and has even threatened to shut the company down if an amicable solution cannot be reached.