Economy not diversified enough to sustain loss – Nandlall

first_imgClosure of sugar industry…economic, social meltdown will affect every citizenBy Samuel SukhnandanWith the loss of the sugar industry in Guyana, there will be serious socio-economic consequences that will impact citizens in every class and pull every sector down in its cascading downward avalanche.This is the expressed view of former Minister Anil Nandlall who said that any assessment that viewed the sugar industry through the lens of dollars and cents or profit and loss would be deeply flawed.“Sugar in Guyana is not merely an economic undertaking or venture. It is anOpposition PPP/C Member of Parliament Anil Nandlallinstitution. It does not merely provide employment, earn foreign exchange, or contribute to GDP [Gross Domestic Product],” he argued.Nandlall noted that this industry also sustained communities comprising tens of thousands of people and represented a way of life.“The Guyanese economy is neither large nor diversified enough to sustain the loss of sugar,” he added.Referring to President David Granger’s speech at an event in Kenya, where he informed that his Government was committed to people and not profits, he said the President’s statement was unsound.“The President fails to see the contradiction in closing down an industry, which directly and indirectly will affect every citizen of his country on the basis that it is not yielding the desired profits.”Nandlall reminded that an impact assessment was necessary, something that his party, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had pushed for, but Government was bent on going ahead with its own plans.“We are firmly committed to the view that the cost of closure far outweighs the cost of keeping the industry operational,” the former Minister maintains.He referred to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on the industry which did not recommend closure, arguing that Government was yet to offer an intelligent reason for the closure of the industry.“The consequence is that they have exposed themselves to the widespread view that the decision to close the industry is driven by political and ethnic considerations,” Nandlall opined.But an important point made by the former Minister was the fact that although thousands of families were immediately placed on the breadline without any hope, whatsoever, there would not be any alternative employment in the foreseeable future nor severance benefits.“If paid at all, it will not be paid in the near future. These families have loan payments to make to the commercial banks for their homes. They have debts to pay for furnishings and vehicles acquired by hire purchase. Food has to be placed on the table and in lunch kits for children to attend schools.”SuicidesAlthough Government, through the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), has made arrangements to provide counselling to those who were fired, especially in light of two former workers committing suicide, Nandlall said the indirect consequences would be equally devastating.“The impact of the closure of Wales Estate can currently be assessed. The lower West Bank of Demerara communities are currently gripped in a socio-economic paralysis,” he said, explaining that over 75 per cent of the economy of Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), revolves around the sugar industry.“The remaining 25 per cent would find it impossible to survive in isolation. The Private Sector recognises this reality…The suicides have already commenced. It will only intensify. Crime will continue to skyrocket. Other social dilemmas will soon emerge and multiply,” Nandlall predicted.Meanwhile, in highlighting that the Skeldon co-generation plant supplies electricity to the national grid for 65,000 families and all of the revenue goes to the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL), the Opposition Member of Parliament highlighted that these monies were not going to the industry and would ‘die’ soon.“This is nothing short of a human rights tragedy – nay economic genocide. I do not think Guyana’s economy is sufficiently, either versatile or robust enough to sustain the social and economic onslaught that the closure of the sugar industry will soon unleash,” he asserted.Nandlall also expressed confidence that the Government would not survive it either. “Our society is simply too small and our economy too integrated to be insulated from the consequences. Like the financial crisis that hit the world in 2008, the economic and social meltdown will affect every citizen.”As for the PPP, the former Minister noted that his party would stand resolutely not only with the sugar workers but with all other workers who would reel from this disaster.“We will use the 100th birth anniversary of Dr Cheddi Jagan as the platform for the struggle and to inspire us to work relentlessly in order to ensure not only the survival of these workers and their families but also the eventual reversal of this evil, inconsiderate, and unwarranted decision.”last_img read more