Guyana Govt has Failed Sugar Workers & Farmers

Guyana Govt has Failed Sugar Workers & Farmers

An opinion poll I conducted (over the last week) for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) has found sugar workers, rice farmers, and other farmers complaining bitterly about the widespread neglect they have been experiencing under the APNU+AFC government that was installed into office by external forces since May 2015. They described the government as “anti-farming”. They complained that this coalition government has failed to honour promises – such as to guarantee rice price, not to close sugar estates, to find markets for rice, protect cash crops from the ravages of flooding or bad weather, establish agro processing industries, create jobs, etc.

The coalition has been rapidly losing support in farm areas, rural communities and among Indians because of widespread neglect and perceived race bias policies. Indians have been relegated at the bottom of the stratification ladder facing widespread abuses in all areas.

The coalition came to power with the 11% (AFC support primarily from Indians) joining up with the PNC (40%) to unseat the PPP from office though there have been allegations of electoral fraud. However, since the change in government, farming communities and rural dwellers have been facing serious socio-economic issues including a rise in domestic abuse, (attempted) suicides, joblessness, homelessness, alcoholism, and (internal and external) migration. People also complain about educational neglect, bias in the distribution of scholarships to tertiary institutions, the awarding of government contracts, and other matters. They also complain that their rural regions are lagging in socio-cultural funding and development; Indian culture has been almost completely neglected with hardly any government support. Under the PPP government, Indian culture was also neglected.

Farmers, sugar workers, and market dwellers say that the coalition made many promises during the election campaign to get elected, particularly committing that they would not close any sugar estates and guaranteeing $9,000 a bag for paddy. But after getting the sugar workers and farmers’ votes, the coalition has repeatedly ignored those promises. They say Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, Member of Parliament Charandass Persaud, and other AFC leaders misled them into supporting the coalition but have not come back to look for them or champion their interests after the election. And they also say that the AFC has not been addressing issues affecting them or doing much to benefit them. Farmers and rural people say they have become poorer since the change in government. Businesses have also made a similar charge.

In addition to farmers, people in the urban areas and from around the country also say the government has been a let-down. They also complain that the government promised to create jobs and raise salaries and instead they have experienced an increase in unemployment, stagnated real wages, and an increase in prices for goods and services.

Voters appeal to the AFC and APNU to implement their promises saying it is still not too late to take measures to reverse the loss of popular support.