NO one can argue with what was recently reported in the press, that is, the findings of the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO), that “… has pointed to an increase in the rates of suicide, crime, and alcohol consumption in communities that relied heavily on the sugar estates for their livelihoods that were closed by the Coalition government.” In fact, the day before, I did read a letter in one of the dailies that the planned reopening of the Enmore Sugar Estate will redound into a better society.
It is universally accepted that “Being unemployed is associated with a two-fold to three-fold increased relative risk of death by suicide, compared with being employed.”
Locally, the ILO stated that, “Entire communities were sent into depression.” This was the emphatic conclusion of local economist Dr. Thomas B. Singh, who authored the socio-economic impact study, which was sponsored by the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO).
I need to emphasise that this is not some whimsical ‘guess work.’ The findings cover at least 5,000 sugar workers, their families, and their communities. These workers, as we all recall, in 2016 and 2017, were callously dismissed by the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government, when they closed the sugar estates at Wales, Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon. This widespread closure, as the report pointed out, “… was also so disruptive to those economies, that the households of many of the affected workers could have been driven into poverty traps.” The actual money stats read quite frightening: “… weekly household income had fallen by 64 per cent, from an average of G$32,238 to G$18,450.” Let us bear in mind that “… the majority of dismissed workers were fathers, who were the sole breadwinners of their families.”
So the APNU+AFC without a doubt wrecked not only the daily lives of these workers in a financial way, but made negative inroads in the student/ children population, whose education at a young age had to be seriously compromised, and maybe permanently so.
I need not belabour the point, but suffice it to say that a Crudele report states that in the United States, “Every one per cent rise in unemployment leads to 40,000 deaths.” These deaths, it was pointed out, had nothing to do with [the] COVID- 19 virus and a distressed economy.”
I add that unemployment has both individual and social consequences that require public-policy interventions. For the individual, unemployment can cause psychological distress, which can lead to a decline in life satisfaction. It can also lead to mood disorders and substance abuse.
I must commend the government for its immediate intervention in revitalising sugar and estate employment, on assuming office. This must be pursued until all the estates are fully operating.