In SN’s editorial yesterday, the author concluded by advising sugar and rice farmers, in particular, to be discerning and not to vote for those who tell them what they want to hear at the upcoming March 2 polls. This is good advice for those who are sitting pretty but I thought it was a bit insensitive to the dismissed sugar workers who are struggling to make ends meet.
Regarding agriculture in general, a couple of things have to be in place before we can diversify the sector. The most important is having cheap electricity. This will transform the whole of Guyana, not only agriculture. Cheap energy, which APNU/AFC blocked when they derailed Amaila, creates opportunities to package and preserve to market overseas. Secondly, we need a Government that genuinely wants to work and help the sector. We cannot pretend that APNU/AFC closed the sugar estates to save money. If it was to save money then why have they been spending more than G$30B and counting. And if they wanted to preserve jobs, they would have opted to sell the estates as a going concern. The closures were meant to create hardship and undermine PPP/C perceived support base.
PPP/C will reopen the estates because it is the practical thing to do to solve the dire unemployment problem. The closures are also negatively impacting foreign exchange earnings and disrupting demand and supply economics nationwide. Has SN’s editor noticed the glut of vegetables on the market? There is an oversupply because more people are out of jobs and are planting cash crops while at the same time demand is down because citizens have lost jobs and spending power. So if GuySuCo has to be subsidised, this will not be the first time and Guyana will not be the first country to do it – North America and the EU do it all the time. It is quite possible to recoup a subsidy from exponentially higher tax earnings in a stimulated and vibrant economy. Regardless, at least PPP/C strategy allows more time to assess the future of the industry. In my opinion, our oil and hydro resources should be deployed to create alternative industries to absorb the unemployed if and when that time comes.
The Leader of the Opposition lamented that he never thought he would see the return of hunger in Guyana. This is an emotional issue for many. I would like for the editor of SN to contemplate the plight of dismissed sugar workers and to recognise that having food on the table is more important than politics at this time. Take it from someone who worked in the backdam, lived through the worse years of the PNC and came close to going hungry on more than one occasion.