the departure of the Russians puts pressure on the economy of the municipalities around the Kourou

On February 26, the Russian space agency Roskosmos suspended Soyuz launches from Guyana and recalled its technicians. These departures weigh on the economy of the Guyanese municipalities in which they are based.

Without Russian space personnel for a week, Guyana is feeling the hit and is most concerned about the economic vacuum created by the suspension of launches from Kourou. On February 26, in response to European Union sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian space agency Roscosmos suspended Soyuz launches from Guyana and recalled its technicians.

Since then, 87 Russians have left Guyana on two repatriation flights on February 28 and March 2. According to Cnes, the French space agency, this is a “fast, safe and controlled” launch. But the departure leaves a void in the Guyanese municipalities that hosted them. Three Soyuz launches were still scheduled for 2022, including one in early April.

In Sinnamari, a town about fifty kilometers from Kourou and home to part of the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Mayor Michel-Ange Jeremy (SE) says he is “concerned” about the withdrawal of troops decided by Moscow. But the time has not yet come for a “crisis”.

On the other hand, “if the Russians finally withdraw from Guyana, it will be more serious,” adds an elected representative of this commune of 3,000 people.

“Completely shut down”

Located 18 kilometers from the Soyuz launch pad, Sinnamary has hosted most of the Russian personnel since 2011.

“Up to 250 people during launches,” explains Alexandre Karam, manager of Hotel du Fleuve, the main host. According to him, with the departure of the Russians, “the hotel’s turnover increased by 99%.

“Due to Covid, we were unable to accommodate both the Russians and the population in order to avoid the risk of a cluster. We focused on Russian clients. Today, our activities are completely stopped,” the management of the River Hotel notes.

If at the moment fifteen employees are not in danger of losing their jobs, then “the budget, investments, planned work are turned upside down,” Alexander Karam regrets.

According to Michel-Ange Jeremy, the mayor of Sinnamary, this departure also directly affects the “economic attractiveness of the city”. Because the Russians “drank Sinnamaryan, went to restaurants, participated in cultural events, rented cars.”

“At the moment, we are spectators of this war and are waiting for the decisions of politicians at the national level.”

An ambiguity shared by his colleague in Kourou, François Ringe (DVD), also president of the Community of Communities of Sawan, an inter-municipal entity that brings together the localities of Kourou, Sinnamari, Iraqubo and Saint-Elie. Mayor of a space city since 2014, this is the most “important crisis” he has to deal with.

10% of jobs in Guyana

“I am very afraid of the future,” Francois Ringe admits. “CSG subcontracting companies are refusing to hire and we have no official recall from Cnes or Paris,” he laments.

“We are no longer talking about a temporary withdrawal, about a launch delay, as one might imagine. Today, the Antonov plane was destroyed, which was transporting parts of the Ariana, the Dnepr plant in Ukraine, which produces parts for the Vega rocket. bombed, so there are multiple strikes,” he adds.

In this city of nearly 30,000 people, the space represents “9,000 to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs,” he says, which is undoubtedly the number one economic asset. The Savannah community is the only area in French Guiana where the financial resources of a business are greater than those of households, thanks to space activities.

In Guyana, where half of the population lives below the poverty line, the sector accounts for 10% of jobs and 15% of wealth creation, according to INSEE. However, reduced activity at the space center will not affect the taxation that CSG pays to the intercommunal community. “Taxation depends on the building,” says Mayor Sinnamary. The apprenticeship tax should also not be reduced.

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