By Shemar AlleyneThough the future of the country’s sugar industry remains unclear, there is a lot of positives with regards to their re-opening.GAWU General Secretary Seepaul NarineThis is according to General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine in an exclusive interview with this publication.The union representative stated that viewing the industry through an economic lens, the argument for sugar’s minimisation becomes even weaker, but noted that the estates were more than just producers of sugar and molasses but rather they were the hive of activities and represented a beacon of sustenance and hope.“Sugar when it was doing well it had contributed a lot sum $2 billion at the US exchange rate, but apart from its direct contribution to the treasury, you also had the fact that it employed so many people and their families who have been dependent on sugar and those businesses and so on that depends on sugar workers’ wages and you also have the drainage of the entire coastal system was more or less done by sugar and the sugar estates has been up keeping that,” Narine stated.The Wales Sugar Estate, West Bank Demerara (WBD), which was the first to be closed by the APNU/AFC coalition Government, putting thousands of workers and their families on the breadlineThe closure of the four sugar estates at Rose Hall-Canje, Skeldon, (both in Berbice), East Demerara (Enmore to Ogle) and Wales (West Bank Demerara) tossed close to 7500 workers into a financial crisis.“There has been no Christmas, there has not been any increase by this Government for the past five years and the sugar workers had nothing for Christmas, not even an increase, not a cent,” he remarked.Moreover, the GAWU executive related that it is clear that the entire sugar policy of the collation Government was done with one intention – that is to punish the sugar workers, their families, and their villages.“In the state paper, it is said that sugar workers were supporters of the PPP which is absolutely not so because you have so many people working in sugar from different political parties and across the spectrum. If you see the state paper you will see the spitefulness they have against sugar workers,” he cited.However, despite the plethora of plans that the GuySuCo signalled, the Corporation has repeatedly cried out about lack of financing, resulting in the GAWU also questioning the source of financing for the abovementioned ambitious projects.In the last four years, the coalition Government, insisting that the sugar industry is bleeding the treasury, has closed four sugar estates, sending home over 7000 workers.To date, thousands of those fired workers are still struggling to find a job. Many of them often tell of the hardship they face to feed their families. At Wales, West Bank Demerara, children of some of the fired workers are forced to find part-time jobs to help their parents with school expenses.In May of this year, the Government was preparing to sell off huge swathes of land owned by GuySuCo as part of moves to sell off several loss-making estates. This was being executed even as the Administration prepared to revive interest in the ‘for sale’ assets by local and foreign investors.The downsizing of the sugar industry has been fiercely resisted by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the parliamentary Opposition and a number of other agencies.The operations of the La Bonne Intention Estate were amalgamated with those of the Enmore Estate; those at Wales were amalgamated with Uitvlugt and there are plans to privatise Skeldon. But the closure of the estates and the sacking of workers are having an effect on the economy.
In last week’s board meeting, the Peace River Regional District approved the awarding of the North Peace Regional Landfill Operational Upgrades Contract #15-2015 to Lindberg Construction Inc. — valued at $4,491,132.90.The contract was brought forward for discussion at the committee of the whole meeting on November 15th.The North Peace Regional Landfill’s Design, Operations & Closure Plan (or DOCP, for short) requires the relocation of the scale facility and transfer station further south on the property — to utilize all of the current area.- Advertisement -There are a few reasons this relation will benefit the facility: the installation of a 2-scale system, which the PRRD says will reduce traffic delays by half. The extra space will see more drop-off recyclables, as well as ‘Share Shed’ items.The facility will also gain landfill airspace, in the amount of approximately 320,000 m3, according to Sperling Hansen & Associates.When all is said and done, the air space has a value of roughly $17.84 million. In the long run, the PRRD says that factor will more than offset the cost of developing the new facility, and extend the landfill’s lifespan.Advertisement Jeff Rahn, General Manager of Environmental Services with PRRD, said the facility will also feature a composting area for industrial wood chips.Bio solids, from the new Charlie Lake Sewage Treatment Facility opening up shortly, will also be put in the compost, as ‘organic input.’Rahn said there are municipalities in the Peace Region that are keen on providing household compost bins, but we are a ‘couple of years’ away from seeing them implemented; in the meantime, he feels this will be a good lead into introducing composting.“Phase 3 of our Solid Waste Management plan, which is our next phase, does call for doing something with the organics, like kitchen scraps,” Rahn says. “It is a nice set up to deal with kitchen organics, but we won’t be handling it quite yet in this area.”Advertisement Upgrades to the facility are expected to be done by the middle of October next year.