Laid-off sugar workers are not likely to embrace cooperatives (Part 1)

first_imgDear Editor,It seems that I touched a sensitive nerve unintentionally when I wrote a letter recently suggesting that Government’s initiative, spearheaded by Minister Keith Scott, to get laid off sugar workers to form cooperatives might not be the best option for them at this time.Someone from the minister’s team, Kenava Elious, responded — in a section of the media on July 11, 2018 — by accusing me of not doing research and not presenting “empirical evidence” to support my contention, among other misguided comments.Let me make it clear that I am not against cooperatives. Under the right circumstances, and with the right people, cooperatives can be successful. My point is simple: At this time in Guyana’s history, the right circumstances might not exist for successful cooperatives in the areas where most former sugar workers reside. And they might not be the right people to form successful cooperatives.Everybody knows that most cooperatives formed in Guyana failed. Everybody knows that many Guyanese connect cooperatives to a particular political party. Everybody also knows that former sugar workers live in communities that traditionally oppose the party that people link to cooperatives. Therefore, Government has a challenging task to get former sugar workers to embrace cooperatives and make them work.Also, I know for a fact — by communicating directly with many of these terminated sugar workers — that they have bitterness in their hearts; bitterness that is turning into hate. Their lives are in confusion, and they appear to be unforgiving. For me, this is a sad state of affairs. It pains my heart that in the Skeldon/Corriverton area, where I grew up, former sugar workers are thronging and begging for jobs in any capacity to make ends meet. The fact that I do not have contracts in the area to absorb these people disturbs me.So, Kenava Elious, I might not have empirical evidence from formal research, but I have lots of information acquired by observation. I meet these people, and they call me. Their wives and children Whatsapp me appealing for jobs. This is where the closure of the various sugar factories in the important zones in the sugar belt affects me personally, because I know — and you know — there was no preparation or education of these people about cooperatives and proper investment of their severance pay.My other great worry is that while looking for employment, their severance will be eaten out, and they will be left with nothing in their hands. Then drastic desperation and confusion will reign in their minds. It’s not dozens of people, but thousands who have been terminated without due diligence, preparation and organisation.I know the Government will be willing to assist in the cooperative ventures of groups. I have faith in the Government. But feeding the idea of cooperatives into the minds of confused and vexed people will be a tough sell. I am not speaking philosophy, I am speaking reality. I originate from the bosom of the sugar belt, and from among sugar workers.I believe Government initiatives must be practical to succeed.I know that when people are helped to develop their own businesses by the sweat of their own brows, and when what they get from the business is in proportion to what they put in, there is a much higher chance that they would succeed. In my opinion, businesses based on group mentalities are more likely to go awry. There are usually quarrels and fights for leadership, and members tend to grumble about the returns. Some cannot deal with financial responsibilities, and start to steal.The writer of the response to my letter alluded to me being a disciple of Minister Keith Scott. I have never been anyone’s disciple. I have a strong aversion to the word ‘disciple’ being used to categorise me. I understand mentors and persons who inspire. The minister has his way of thinking, and I am not necessarily completely with him in everything he says and does; and he is not always fully in step with me on every issue, such as the plan to push former sugar workers into cooperatives.Sincerely,Roshan Khan Srlast_img

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