Submitted by Guyana Trades Union Congress Press Statement May 9, 2014
The GTUC in taking note of GuySuCo’s announcement it has surpassed production target advises the nation there is nothing to celebrate. The target set by GuySuCo is way below capacity and investment of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in the form of loans and grants. Surpassing a five-figure target when the industry has historically produced at six-figure levels is the waving of a white flag that the industry is in distress and requires salvaging. The nation ought not be fooled by the publicly stunt aimed at hoodwinking the citizens/workers that the industry is turning around. When taking into consideration that the market availability allows GuySuCo to sell all the sugar it has the capacity to produce, yet at the same time targets are set far below its capacity, is a reflection of management deficiencies. It exemplifies the failure to pull all the factors of production together which will cause the company to deliver at its optimum based on the existing market conditions.
The failure of the government to present a plan for the industry’s development, seeking to escape accountability when called upon to justify the $6B taxpayers’ bailout by turning it into a divisive political issue may have influenced the National Assembly to shelve its responsibility to the nation and act in accord with government. The opposition must return to its watchdog/oversight role and keep its foot on the pedal to salvage the industry and protect the livelihood of those to be affected.
GTUC takes note of public comments made by the Shadow Minister of Agriculture regarding expectation of the Minister of Agriculture honouring his commitment to the National Assembly to produce a plan by June. GTUC cautions against this type of expectation given the government’s track record and ministerial history of the subject minister. This nation will recall it was during Leslie Ramsammy’s stewardship as Minister of Health the ministry was racked with questionable execution of programmes and contracts, including overpricing, overstocking, wanton wastage, and single sourcing of pharmaceuticals. The GTUC prefers to err on the side of caution and calls on the opposition to develop a plan and present it to the National Assembly.
Current production level in the industry is incompatible with operational cost and must be of concern to all. History reveals the industry’s ability of higher production targets and self-sufficiency in spite of the challenges encountered. Evidence also demonstrates the PPP does not have a Development Plan for the industry. Unless volume increases significantly labour cost so much spoken about will remain high in comparison to total operational cost. GuySuCo carries fixed cost regardless of the volume of sugar produced and any production level that is achieved and heralded as successful must be consistent with prevailing factors.
Under the PPP administration the management of sugar has not been to the benefit of the rank and file workers, the industry and the nation as a whole. Management is being driven by expediency of crude political motives, rewarding and enriching the livelihood of a few with political connections, with the rank and file workers being used as pawns in the process. The opposition, by their action (s) in the National Assembly must demonstrate to this nation that they are capable of addressing the wellbeing of the industry and its labour force (direct and indirect) with the dexterity and commitment it deserves. The failure to give leadership will be tantamount to giving the PPP latitude to abuse the industry, workers and nation’s coffers.
Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project
While it may be tempting to view the joint press conference between the USA Ambassador Hardt and government representative Dr. Roger Luncheon, given past exchanges and actions as a lost for Guyana, this nation is called on not to despair but to organise and agitate! The PPP has done what it does best- propaganda and demonisation. Whether the USA has fallen prey to it or had left it up to the citizenry to battle it out and hold their elected officials (in government and opposition) accountable to ensure their participation in and reaping the benefits the project intended to achieve will be seen over time. The masses at the end of the day will determine if they will demand representation from the politicians in fulfilling the nation’s political objective outlined in Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution, which mandates their involvement in decision-making that affect their wellbeing, of which knowledge and institutional strengthening are key components.
GTUC takes particular note of Dr. Luncheon’s response to concerns that the government’s intent is to have the project abandoned. Luncheon’s remark that “It is not impossible but highly unlikely to happen” with repeated emphasis on “not impossible” is unsettling. On the other hand the US ambassador is being diplomatically correct in expressing optimism that the parties will resolve their differences before his tour of duty ends. The man and woman in the street will advise that the government will not honour this agreement equally as it has failed to honour all agreements with individuals/groups that hold a different view, real or perceived, from theirs. From the failure to honour the Herdmanston Accord, St. Lucia Statement, Hoyte/Jagdeo dialogue, Corbin/Jagdeo communique, the 2012 High Court’s ruling to re-issue letters to commence arbitration proceedings into the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) grievances, collective bargaining with the public service unions, to the 2012 Agreement between Central Government and Region 10. The society has been keeping the score.
It’s Labour’s strong view the fulfilment of the LEAD project, as with other agreements, including the contract to govern will be reliant on the workers’ militancy and the consent of the governed. In the words of former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” The bottom line of all this is, the continued manifestation of this project will not be at the behest of the PPP or the US government, it will be at the behest of this nation, its people, including the media and civil society rallying/uniting around a well deserving issue and demanding the politicians, in opposition and government, bring it to fruition.
The PPP may have won the battle but the war is far from over. The war belongs to the people and the people will have to fight to bring about the needed change, consistent with the system of governance guaranteed in our Constitution that the government refuses to respect when it does not serve its interest. Knowledge is power. And while a government continues the practice of the tyranny of the minority with its disrespect for the people and desire to keep them suppressed, the voice of the majority will have to increase its decibel and actions to halt the excesses and contempt.