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It has been more than six months since the Irfaan Ali regime has been in office, yet nothing has been done to address the operational and industrial climate at the Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated (BCGI). This government is fully aware of the events at BCGI and should have had a plan in place to hit the ground running, from day one, as it had for sugar given both are considered the traditional production sector.
BCGI is part owned by the Government of Guyana. Government therefore has a responsibility to ensure any company it is associated with is operational and functioning at its optimum, which includes a stable industrial environment. BCGI remains a legal, registered company and continues to carry out activities outside of mining.
There remains international demand for Guyana’s bauxite. Whereas, through a second source, I was advised that a senior member in the government, in an interview, said bauxite is no longer viable the market evidence proves to the contrary. The government’s distortion about bauxite’s viability is further exposed not only with the fact that a new company, First Bauxite, began operations here three years ago but the Minister of Natural Resources is on public record speaking about investor’s interest in bauxite mining in another location.
What is most instructive are the unsubstantiated excuses being made not to pursue the reopening of the Aroaima and Kwakwani operations when bauxite remains viable. Readers are invited to juxtapose government’s excuses to disinvest in BCGI, a company it part owns, but its willingness to pump billions into reopening closed sugar estates.
The government is on record stating that it makes no apology for having an open cheque to assist the beleaguered Guyana Sugar Corporation. Guyana continues to heavily subsidise the production of sugar which continues to be sold at a loss internationally. If the government sees it wise to subsidise a non-profitable product, under the guise of being mindful of the socioeconomic circumstances of sugar workers and their communities, then the government must explain to this nation and BCGI workers why they are refusing to have BCGI mines fully operational. Guyana’s bauxite has a prized place internationally given its “sweetener” (enhancer) status.
The socioeconomic circumstances of BCGI workers and their communities are adversely being impacted not because the product they are involved in producing is not competitive but because the government refuses to have the operations reopened. Bauxite workers are of no lesser import than sugar workers and the government cannot justify its uncaring, cruel and discriminatory act towards these workers.
Even if the BCGI Russian management wants to leave the operation the government has an obligation and responsibility to workers and their communities to make sure economic activities continue at the sites. The mines must be made operational and the workers must be allowed to work. There must be equal treatment for workers and their communities across the board. You cannot have one standard for the sugar workers and their communities and then apply the opposite for bauxite workers and theirs. This is a blatant act of discriminating in favour of sugar workers and discriminating against bauxite workers.
In fact, by its discriminatory actions the government is realising a perception that communities that did not vote for them will not have equal benefit to any of their programmes or policies. Government is being reminded that under the laws all workers are equal, and each guarantees the right to productive endeavour. Their disparity in treatment between sugar vis-à-vis bauxite workers is very stark and tantamount to economic injustice against a category of workers which has the hallmark of ethnic, political and social retaliation.