A sod-turning exercise in Linden on Thursday has symbolised the respective commencement of construction of a shelter for abused women and two community centres.Social Protection Minister Amna Ally and US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch were among those at the sod-turning exerciseThese projects are being undertaken by the United States Military Services, also referred to as the New Horizons. One of the shelters will be constructed at Amelia’s Ward, while the other will be constructed at Blueberry Hill, Wismar.At the sod-turning exercise on Thursday, US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch noted that this is the third outreach to Guyana by the New Horizons. She noted that the US is committed to building and sustaining relationships with its partner nations.“We look forward to continuing to grow our partnership and our friendship. Just like its previous iterations in 2004 and 2009, which built clinics and schools and provided medical outreaches, this year’s New Horizons’ efforts provide invaluable knowledge and unmatched hands-on experience”, Ambassador Lynch noted.She added that the bilateral nature of the exercise creates a unity of efforts between the two countries to address challenges in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.Ambassador Lynch also posited that hundreds of Guyanese have already benefited directly from medical outreaches and construction projects undertaken by New Horizons, and thousands more are to benefit in the years to come.Social Protection Minister Amna Ally related that there is much to celebrate and be grateful for, since the community will, for the first time, have a Women’s Shelter.She noted that the US/Guyana partnership has resulted in positive outcomes for the people of Linden, and she said she is looking forward to future partnerships.The Minister noted that the sod-turning ceremony represents the first act of greater things to come, and it would not have been possible without support of the US Government under the New Horizons project.Linden Mayor Waneka Arrindell has said the introduction of a Women’s Shelter is something that the town would always remember, in that it would bring much needed relief to the Region as a whole.She also expressed hope that the shelter would be able to provide services that would help to reduce issues such as teenage pregnancies and child abuse, and provide skills training and literacy services for youths.New Horizons Commander, Colonel Kenneth Bratland, in an overview, alluded to the importance of the projects.“(For) our exercise, New Horizons will bring over 500 airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines into Guyana between February and September of this year. Our primary purpose is to train US Forces (on) how to plan and conduct humanitarian missions in different and challenging conditions. To ensure our conditions are challenging, the first thing we did was to build a base camp for all our personnel to live in. We did this starting in February, and we finished that in May.“With that completed, we are now moved on to the helping phase of this exercise. Our first focus area is providing medical, dental and veterinary assistance at seven events in 15 locations across Guyana,” he detailed.Five of these events, he noted, will take place at seven locations throughout Linden.He highlighted that the first event concluded at the Port Mourant Hospital in Region Six last month, while the second will conclude today (Friday) at the Linden Hospital Complex.Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Patrick West, has said that, with an apparent increase in domestic violence cases, he is heartened that the shelter for women was conceived and earmarked as a priority project.He said realisation of the shelter signals that the men and women in uniform are there to offer support.“It signals that, as military persons, we are in touch with some of the social ills that plague our society… The Joint Services as a whole is committed to providing assistance through whatever provisions are allowed legally by mandate and otherwise to fight against the scourge of domestic violence. I cannot wait to see the completion of this project, and ensure that it is effectively and efficiently utilised by all,” he declared.
While Government claims that the sugar industry has decreased in value from a financial outlook, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has positioned that the industry is a vast contributor from an economic perspective.Jagdeo, at the recent press conference, identified several ways in which the economic value of sugar is still viable, especially with the ripple effect it created in other sectors.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoHe said this could have been realised earlier if Government had opted to conduct the economic feasibility study, which was suggested. The closure of the estates, he examined, came at a greater cost than keeping the factories alive.“Sugar is still viable from an economic perspective and not necessarily from a financial perspective because of the multiple benefits that are associated with sugar from the linkages to the taxes to the NIS to the drainage and irrigation services which still have to be funded.”“We argued for an economic feasibility study. This is not a financial feasibility study. This is about people’s lives, their contribution to the economy…Had they done the economic feasibility study that we had asked for, you would have seen that the cost of closure is greater than the cost of keeping sugar going,” the Opposition Leader added.A scene from one of the several protests former GuySuCo workers mounted against the GovernmentThe four estates: Wales Estate on the West Bank of Demerara; Enmore in Demerara; and Rose Hall and Skeldon in Berbice, were closed less than two years after the coalition Administration took office.According to the former Head of State, the closed sugar estates can be sold to investors but these stakeholders are not willing to make an investment presently.The Opposition Leader shared, “He [President David Granger] said people don’t want to buy the estates but they’re selling off the scraps and assets without telling us…It’s not that people don’t want to buy the estates. It’s just that they don’t want to invest now in Guyana with this bunch of incompetent people running the show.”Just last month, he had argued that the coalition Government failed to make fact-based decisions for the sugar industry. During an address to the Association of Concerned Guyanese in Toronto, Canada, he acknowledged that sugar needed transitional help but added that the Government’s approach was anything but transitional.Recently, it was announced that more than 660 hours of downtime at all of the three remaining factories in the sugar belt has resulted in the second crop production plummeting.The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) had said that the Albion Estate factory was experiencing its worse performance in the longest of time. In fact, the Union noted that the problems at that location are so acute that the Corporation has lost some three weeks of operations.According to GAWU, the performance of the factories, as it has lamented before, brings into question the efficacy of the industry’s factory operations department.“That department’s skills, we gathered, has been augmented in recent times as several new recruits were engaged. We hasten to wonder what have been their collective contributions in assuaging the situation and trying to bring some semblance to the difficulties that are being faced at this time. The situation for the Union and the workers are very much concerning and disconcerting at the same time,” the missive stated.The Union went on to point out that this situation has been especially hard for the sugar workers. It noted that the poor reliability of the factories has seen workers on many days not being offered work.It added that this makes a bad situation worse as they have been struggling with the declines in their nominal and real pay and that the inability to work every day for them and their family, especially as they approach the year-end season, must be distressing.Bearing in mind the most recent performance, the Union has now estimated that the industry’s second crop production by December 20, will reach 60,236 tonnes sugar with a total deficit of 16,107 tonnes.