…blasts Govt’s handling of sugar industryRecent interest in the local bauxite industry is an indication that the decision taken by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) under the late former President Cheddi Jagan was favourable; the bauxite industry continues to provide employment and economic opportunities for communities and the country as a whole.This conviction was expressed by former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds on Sunday as he addressed thousands of persons gathered at Babu Jaan in Port Mourant, on the Corentyne Coast in East Berbice, to observe and celebrate the centenary birth anniversary of the late Guyanese President Dr. Cheddi Jagan.Hinds declared this Government’s handling of the downsizing of the sugar industryFormer Prime Minister, Samuel Hindsis unprecedented, and does not take into account the multiple effects that decision would have on the lives of thousands of families in Guyana.“When we got into Government, we were met with problems in bauxite,” Hinds, who served as Prime Minister alongside President Dr Jagan in 1992, recalled. He said it is a fact that the previous People’s National Congress (PNC) Administration had plans to shut down the industry if the managers could not find a way to make bauxite profitable.“It was to be shut down. And when the managers reported to us in 1994 that they couldn’t find a way to make bauxite profitable, we had that commitment to close it down; but we did not close bauxite, we handled it in a way which showed that we understood that all Guyanese are Guyanese,” he added.While blasting the coalition Government’s handling of the sugar industry, Hinds said, “We are not at all convinced that they see all Guyanese (as Guyanese); (that) they see sugar workers as being as any other people in Guyana. That is one of our big problems with the way this Government has been handling this problem,” he lamented.An impassioned Hinds spoke about the developments that have since taken place in the bauxite industry and the Guyanese economy as a whole. He believes that the progress made under the PPP Government in the 23 years it was in office is doubtlessly commendable and transformational. Hinds said this could continue if his party is returned to Government at the 2020 general elections.Several Canadian mining companies operating in Guyana have pledged to invest tens of millions of US dollars in expansion projects here. This announcement was made at the just concluded Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention (PDAC) held in Toronto, Canada.Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Goldfields Inc., Scott Caldwell, has said that company plans, with the introduction of underground mining, to boost annual gold production to 300,000 ounces by 2022. He said the company plans to conduct training and development of the Guyanese workforce.Government currently receives eight per cent royalty on all the gold mined. Government officials think the company’s ongoing expansion augurs well for Guyana, as well as the company’s shareholders and stakeholders.For the period that it has been operating locally, Guyana Goldfields Inc has spent approximately US$50 million in the local economy to acquire goods, and services such as hauling of freight, engineering, and contract mining.Despite Government’s move to close several sugar estates, many civil society bodies and other interest groups have been urging it to rethink its position and to implement plans that would address the welfare of workers; or at least put measures in place to cushion the effects of the closures.In November 2017, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) announced plans to retrench thousands of workers. GAWU says the downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs, and the potential threat of poverty to between 50,000 and 100,000 persons.The Special Purpose Unit (SPU), which forms part of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), has been mandated to conduct evaluations, surveys, and inventory assessments before any steps are taken to actually sell the estates. Those activities have already commenced.