It was economic reasons that prompted the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government to shut down sugar estates in Guyana. It was in no way intended to discriminate against Indo-Guyanese, who largely benefit from the sugar industry, said AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan during a televised programme, “Alliance on the move”, recently on DTV8.
The former Public Security Minister was at the time responding to the Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall’s argument that if reopening estates is deemed a ‘racial’ move, closing them was too.
Nandlall, last week, called out Ramjattan on comments he made about the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)’s plan to reopen estates being nothing but an attempt to throw “red meat” to its Indo-Guyanese support base.
The AG posited that if his government is being condemned by the APNU+AFC for reopening the estates on the premise of solely looking out for Indo-Guyanese, then the Coalition’s shuttering of at least three facilities within five years, only illustrates an opposing stance. Hence his contention: “if the decision to reopen the estates is a racist one, following that logic, one can argue that the decision to close was a racist one.”
But Ramjattan argued that Nandlall misinterpreted the facts when he sought to draw that parallel.
“[H]e (Nandlall) didn’t even get the thing right. We closed down the three factories largely because of economic reasons,” he said, while reminding that the PPP/C had also shuttered estates during its previous 23-year reign.
The politician said, too, that it was not the APNU+AFC that “bankrupted” the industry, but the regime “still tried with it”. Ramjattan said that closing those estates was the logical thing to do, given that production cost towered the price of the commodity.
“A billion dollars per month we had to give to run that thing,” the AFC Leader said, while adding that the PPP/C’s plan to reopen estates will open up further economic challenges for private sugar farmers.
“But some of them blind. They not listening to the argument, and the argument is this: you do not create a product for the market that will sell at half your production cost. That’s the first thing. Twenty-six cents is our production cost; 13 cents is what you sell sugar for in the world market,” he said.
The PPP/C government has already embarked on its mission to revitalise the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr K J Srinivasa has signalled his willingness to promote Guyana’s sugar industry to his country.