September 29, 2016

Economic realities…

…in TT’s steel industry
Trinidad’s our WI industrial power, such as it is. Using their platform of cheap petroleum and gas fortuitously lying under their seabed, they moved from the light manufacturing base inherited at independence into industrial products. Urea and methanol from gas were easy transitions since the raw materials were already there.
Steel was a bit of a stretch but with electricity as cheap as it was – and this being a major cost in steel production – TT plunged into the business that pretty much defined “modern” industrial nations. But not long after, the government-owned company Iscott ran into difficulties and went belly up. It was taken over in 1989 by an ambitious Indian steel maker, Mittal – which renamed it “Iscott” – and was on course to creating the largest steel-making company in the world. This became a reality when the French steel maker Ancelor was taken over to form – “Ancelor-Mittal”. Trinidad was now part of the global players in steel.
But Trinidad’s discovering there are downsides to playing in the big leagues. One of them being, if you aren’t blessed with a large domestic market, you’re stuck with the vagaries of the world market for hocking your product. It’s like the situation with our rice. The 600,000 tonnes we export just can’t be absorbed – much less eaten!! – by even our rice-loving populace… so we’re at the mercy of what the rest of the rice-importing countries need. And that’s why if we didn’t have the El Niño drought to moan about, we’d have been crying about a price crisis later this year.
So back to Trinidad and her steel. With the rest of the world struggling with an economic downturn that’s finally caught up with China, the building and construction boom – to which steel is critical – has crashed. And with even China and its vast domestic markets stuck with excess stock of steel, you can imagine what happens to free lancers like Arcelor-Mittal.
They start shutting down their plants – that’s what. And high-cost-producers like Ispatt in TT go first. Faced with the downturn, the company started laying off workers since last December. The steel Union took the company to court, which then slapped a fine on the former who then said if that’s the game being played, they’re willing to sell the company to the Government for $1!! Or walking away.
The Union’s still making noises. To no avail. And no wonder, since it’s about non-starters like them taking over the plant!!
Here in Guyana, those who have ears to hear in our bauxite industry better start hearing!!

…and British aid
Last year, British PM Cameron visited its most ancient ex-colonies – the WI, of course – on which its industrial revolution and subsequent modernity and prosperity were built. He provoked a storm of protest when – in Jamaica of all places! – he said there’s no way “reparations” were gonna be accepted by Britain. But that he was offering about US$450 million as aid – especially for infrastructural projects – to the Caribbean as a whole, including Guyana.
Your Eyewitness will only note that unlike the Jamaican Government, our powers that be were mum on the reparations rebuff. They did say the most militant fellas surviving the Middle Passage ended up in Jamaica!! In Guyana, some worthies immediately pointed out the need for funding the proposed new, concrete Demerara Harbour Bridge. Which could be funded from the British aid.
So with the situation on the already stressed out old, floating bridge quite dread, they propose we submit a voucher to the Brits for the bridge?
Who says we can’t have the bridge AND Reparations?

…and glass ceilings for women journalists
The Chronic signed up a refreshing new journalist, Akola Thompson, who asked, “Where are the female op-ed columnists?”
They’re over at GTimes!! Take a look at Anna Correia and Ryhaan Shah.

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