The country needs open debate, constructive action and creative leadership
Stabroek News
September 7, 2001

Dear Editor,

A letter by Mr D Deona-rine which appeared in the Stabroek News of September 3, under the caption 'What is the PNC/R position on the sugar and rice industries?' makes very interesting reading. I have followed the debate on the problems being experienced in the rice, sugar, forestry and bauxite industries very closely and unfortunately I am unaware of any credible plans put forward by the government to tackle the myriad problems in any of these sectors, except sugar, where Guysuco put up its expansion plan and the government endorsed it.

Recently, the forestry industry complained about declining profitability be-cause of a ban on the export of logs. Because profits are not there, the industry has been unable to invest in plant refurbishment and milling efficiency. As a result, the forestry industry is becoming increasingly uncompetitive and is in a state of decline.

The World Bank has savaged the Guysuco plan for sugar. Effectively the door to financing the planned expansion of cultivation and the installation of new and refurbished milling capacity at Skeldon and Albion respectively, has been slammed shut by the IMF and World Bank responses to the company's proposals. Has the government revised its plan in light of these responses? Does the government still believe that it can reduce production costs enough to make the industry viable in the globalised market? Will the public ever know what Landel Mills recommends? Now that the Caribbean producers, led by Barbados, are moving to eliminate the importation of sugar for domestic markets, will Guyana not lose a lucrative market identified in the Guysuco plan?

What impact will this have on the future viability of sugar in Guyana and how will the shortfall be made up? Will the government address the vexing issue of the sugar levy? What are the responses to the recent criticisms of crop management and land husbandry methods? Will sugar production not continue to decline if some of these systemic problems are not urgently addressed?

Can Mr Deonarine point to any government authored plan to tackle the problem of debt in the rice industry? Perhaps, he should compare the contents of the election manifestos put out by the PPP/C and PNC/R for the March 19 general elections before making any comment about which party fully grasps the nature of the problem, and by extension, which party is better prepared to take the hard decisions required to revitalize rice. Even President Jagdeo's recent criticism of proposals emanating from the Beni Sankar led committee were long on rhetoric and very short on substance. Instead of fostering an enabling atmosphere for crafting constructive solutions to this most serious problem, the President demonstrated a penchant for unhelpful, destructive criticism.

It is clearly evident that the PPP/C government has given up on the bauxite industry. Recent positions and pronouncements on Aroaima, Bermine and Linmine are clearly indicative of the fact that they lack the will, commitment and know-how to save this industry.

Let us not fool ourselves; the productive sectors of the local economy are in deep distress. Where I differ with Mr Deonarine is my wariness of political grandstanding on critical issues such as the economy or for that matter border security and crime. Reiteration of politically opportunistic positions either by the PNC or PPP will not advance us towards solutions to our grave socio-economic problems. As the governing party, the PPP/C has an obligation to provide leadership to the country on these vital issues. Policy papers analyzing the problems and proposing comprehensive solutions should be laid in Parliament and subjected to intense debate. Then we can judge the mettle of the peoples' representatives on both sides of the aisle as well as the quality of their ideas. The country can then determine who deserves to be taken seriously and who does not.

Confidence in the Jagdeo government's ability to confront the socio-economic problems facing us, the ordinary Guyanese citizens, has declined rapidly since March 19. Aimless rhetoric is an irritant, not a solution! Please Mr President, more than any other time in its short history, the country needs open debate, constructive action and creative leadership.

Yours faithfully,

Sean Aaron