Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The sugar workers union doesn't like Patrick Manning's plans for Caroni Ltd, vaguely presented in the 2003 budget. It sounds like he wants to take the first tentative steps towards changing Caroni's core business from the highly inefficient production of sugar to more viable activities. Winston Dookeran has been advocating this for years; now that he's back in the House I'm looking forward to hearing his response to this area of the budget.

I myself know next to nothing about agricultural economics, but I think I have a fair amount of common sense & a level head (which, by Manning's definition, qualifies me for a Cabinet post). It seems to me fairly absurd that at this stage in our history so much of T&T's agricultural land is still given over to the production of sugar — sold at a loss on the world market, of limited nutritional value — while we continue to import most of our staple food. The sugar industry is a historical leftover. It's time to turn most of Caroni's land over to rice, soybeans & root vegetables for domestic consumption & specialty tropical produce for export to North America. Let's grow just enough sugar for our own use, on land owned by small private farmers.

"Rudranath Indarsingh, the union’s president general, described the budget as having a political agenda and not the interest of Caroni workers or cane farmers at heart....

"On the matter of Caroni workers being re-absorbed, Indarsingh asked: 'How retrainable is a sugar worker? I keep hearing we need to retrain, but what can Caroni workers be retrained to do?'"

I simply refuse to believe that sugar workers are incapable of being retrained to work in other areas of agriculture or food processing. Rudy Indarsingh is insulting the men & women he represents by implying otherwise.

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