…say community “hopeless”By Shemuel FanfairFifteen months after the shutdown of the Wales Sugar Estate, former workers, many of whom reside in the community, are continuing to face the economic burden of reduced finances and scarce employment. The same can be said of the market sellers at Wales, who have collectively stressed their continued challenges into the second year of the West Bank Demerara (WBD) estate being shuttered.At a visit to the area where the once famous ‘Friday Market’ is held; just before 13:00h, sellers were packing up their stocks for the day. This was unlike before December 2016, when the market went later than 17:00h. Guyana Times spoke with several vendors to get a sense of how they are coping in the face of the closure. What was clear was most of them were taking home the day’s produce, in hope that somehow, they would get another opportunity to at the very least, make a profit in order to provide for themselves and their families.Chandrapaul Persaud feels the Wales community has gone down the drainAt the time this newspaper caught up with Jocelyn Boston, she was preparing to leave her stall for the day. In a sombre tone, Boston, who has been vending for over seven years, bemoaned her continued struggles which increase with each passing day since the closure of the Wales estate.“It very hard, we ain’t getting the sales like before. You come out just so you gotta pack back and go in. One and two residents coming out and buy; Uitvlugt workers don’t get pay here. They don’t spend here because they got other markets that they passing,” Boston noted.Referencing the reprieve that some workers were rehired at Rose Hall and Enmore Estates, she expressed that they would all be overjoyed if Wales could be reopened.“Auntie Baby” recorded little sales into the afternoon hours“We would be so happy; this place would go [back to] normal. We punishing bad here. You buying a bag of Boulanger and when it used to take you two days to sell out, now it taking you from Friday to Friday,” she stressed.Boston’s sentiments were shared with her fellow vendors. Many of them indicated that much wastage occurs to their perishables and at times, they could barely break even. Another factor which sellers highlighted was an increase of theft in the Wales area.Jocelyn Boston already packed up and ready to go home after low sale at the Wales MarketOne female seller, who is also a farmer at Sisters Village, linked the social issue to the closure of the estate, noting that many young people are “liming on the road” because they “have nothing to do.” She also highlighted that when Wales was operating, as private cane farmers, many young people could have sought them for employment, especially in the out of crop season.Declining to be identified, the Sisters Village farmer observed that besides cane cutting, young men were able to obtain earnings from digging drains and preparing lands. She added that after the entity closed, her family chose to convert two acres of sugar cane lands into cash crops. However, she stressed that they are suffering losses since much of their produce is stolen from their farm.“Is like you just want run away from here; is a hopeless place. Here nah got hope no more,” the farmer and market vendor told Guyana Times on Friday.Chandrapaul Persaud, who is a native of Mahaicony, has been living and working at the Wales area since 1973 when he married and came to live in the area. However, he maintains his farm at Mahaicony and would travel from the East Coast Demerara community to Wales with his produce. The 62-year-old however indicated that with reduced earnings, his situation is especially worrying since he does not obtain a monthly pension as he never contributed to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). Persaud told this newspaper that the diversification plans should have been put in place before the Estate was closed.“The (Wales) Estate gone down the drain,” he noted.The entity’s closure was seen as a cost-saving measure due to billions of dollars that were allocated to the declining sugar industry, especially to Wales. The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) which has oversight of the Special Purposes Unit (SPU) put the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates up for sale to private investors. Some ex-sugar workers from those entities were re-hired to keep the estates running. In March 2018, NICIL put thousands of acres of land from Wales, as well as machinery from various estates, on the market.