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What about funding for Economic Zone

Wednesday, October 3 2012

The local Cane Farmers Association is disappointed that its concerns were not addressed in this year’s budget after commitments made in relation to funding for an economic zone, as an exit strategy for the closure of the sugar industry.

“What you see mentioned in the budget is for the ex-sugar workers of the Caroni 1975 Ltd,” association President, Seukeran Tambie, told Newsday yesterday. “They seem to be getting everything — millions of dollars, housing lots and two acre plots, while cane farmers and cane cutters are still to get something,” Tambie said.

Noting that recently Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj in the newspaper article mentioned that $341 million would be made available to prepare the leases for the two acre plots for Caroni 1975 Ltd employees, Tambie said, “We are finding it very strange that they are servicing the ex-Caroni 1975 Ltd workers, and not the cane farmers.

This administration, he said “must understand that cane farmers and sugar industry workers are the longstanding supporters of the UNC — the political base of this People’s Partnership Government.”

Maharaj and Minister of Planning, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, had committed on September 14 in the presence of representatives of the European Union Delegation to TT, to assist cane farmers with the sum of $3.4 million to set up by October 1, a secretariat which would enable the cane farmers to develop an economic zone, as an exit strategy from the sugar industry.

“This was not honoured by the Government,” he noted.

The EU delegation, he said, has pledged 10,000 Euros towards the establishment of the secretariat, and an additional 200,000 Euros for consultancy, towards the establishment of the economic zone.

Tewarie had also indicated financial support through the Public Sector Investment Programme, he said, “and of course we were expecting a clear statement to be made in the budget statement this year, for funding to be made available for the setting up of the economic zone.” If by Friday, Tambie said, “the Minister of Food Production does not contact us, then we will have no choice, but to believe that this administration has absolutely no intention of ensuring that the 5,600 cane farmers and 3,500 cane cutters are properly taken care of.”

Continuing, he said, “they have flaunted the goodwill of the EU who met with us in joint meetings.”

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