Stand with me! We will overcome challenges facing sugar industry- President tells sugar workers, residents of Rose Hall
Georgetown, GINA, March 14, 2014
Government remains fully committed to the sugar industry and once the stakeholders support it efforts, the sector can return to its former glory. This was the message President Donald Ramotar delivered during his feature address to mark the unveiling of the Rose Hall Martyrs’ Memorial in Canje, Berbice on Thursday.
The president stated emphatically, “Stand with me and together we will overcome the difficulties, and take the country to greater heights”.
“We will work hard with the workers with the management of the industry to make sure that the fortunes of the industry improve, and GuySuCo once again takes its place as the major industry in Guyana.”
Reflecting on the sacrifices made by sugar workers of yesteryear, the president said that the “The history of Guyana is also the history of sugar”. The contributions made by those associated with the industry such as the former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan whom he described as Guyana’s greatest liberator, “came from the bowels of the sugar industry”.
It was noted that many of those who worked in the sugar industry also contributed substantially to other sectors with their skills in areas such as management. These workers, by their actions also led the fight for democracy locally, and these sacrifices, President Ramotar said, must never be forgotten.
The contribution of the sugar sector to the national economy was stressed by the president as he explained that the industry at the moment contributes 3.9 % of Guyana’s GDP. It earned US$114M in 2013, which was 8.3 percent of the total export earnings, and paid $19.9 Billion in salaries to more than 16,000 directly employed. Additionally 80,000 are indirectly benefiting from the sugar sector, and there are many spin-off benefits for the communities in which the industry operates.
“Our commitment to the industry should not be questioned, because if you look around the Caribbean you will see that the Caribbean got out of sugar…from 2005 to now we have put, the government has put in over $40B into the industry to help it overcome some of the issues plaguing the industry. That speaks well about the commitment that we have for the industry because I honestly feel that the industry’s best days are still ahead. It still has a major contruibution to make and we are moving ahead in trying our best from transforming the industry of being a producer of only raw sugar, but to improve the revenue stream of the industry as well,” he said.
The Government invested in building the Enmore Packaging plant so as to compensate for the price Guyana lost in Europe, by adding value, he added.
“We also invested in Skeldon (factory) and we look towards having cogeneration of electricity, and we are looking for more and more revenue stream where the industry can contribute to those working in it and the country itself.”
Speaking to recent statements by the political opposition, calling for dissolving and diversification of the sugar industry, President Ramotar explained that even in Brazil which produces ethanol, this is done alongside the production of sugar. The production of the alternate bio-generated fuel cannot be done exclusively as this has been proven to be problematic, he said and the same applies for aqua-farming. “Can you imagine 16,000 tilapia growers?”
A call was made, by the president, for there to be more efficiency in the industry, especially as world prices are currently low and fluctuating. Modernisation must continue, he pointed out when prices increase and government will work hard to ensure that sugar once again becomes the major industry in Guyana.
The political opposition is clearly on a path to prevent economic and social development, President Ramotar stressed as he pointed out, in closing the attempts to stymie developmental projects such as Amaila Fall Hydro-Power Project, and the Cheddi Jagan Airport Expansion.
He also spoke of the opposition’s stance towards the anti money laundering bill that clearly will put Guyana in jeopardy if it is not passed soon.