Jagdeo predicts collapse of remaining sugar estates

first_img– says Govt’s ad-hoc approach to industry does not inspire confidenceGovernment’s handling of the sugar industry since it assumed office in 2015 has received a heap of criticisms not only from the workers themselves but local economists and international experts.However, to date, nothing has changed, as the two major parties within the coalition Government seem to be at loggerheads when it comes to deciding on a way forward for the industry.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has pointed out that because of the ad- hoc manner in which this once very important sector of the local economy was being handled, there was no doubt that things could only get worse. “How do Government’s actions inspire any confidence? We might just have a collapse ofOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeowhat is left,” Jagdeo declared, making reference to the remaining sugar estates.First off, Jagdeo noted that months have already passed and the Government was still to decide on a new Board for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). Of recent, there have been reports of an apparent tug-o-war within the coalition over the sugar industry, which is now under the control of a Special Purpose Unit (SPU) that was created under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) for the divestment process.In fact, reports had surfaced about disagreements allegedly between Ministers from the two coalition parties regarding the chairmanship and members of the GuySuCo Board. It was reported in early March that Finance Minister Winston Jordan had allegedly proposed for the Head of SPU, Colvin Heath-London to be the Chairman of the new GuySuCo Board after the previous body had expired on February 14. The purported proposal was reportedly not accepted by the entire Cabinet.At present, there continues to be uncertainty over the GuySuCo Board of Directors; Cabinet is currently looking at some new names. Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has said that Cabinet was still continuing deliberations on the appointment of a Board of Directors for GuySuCo, adding that new names are being looked at and it may take some time before an announcement is made. ButSkeldon Sugar EstateJagdeo, a former President, said, “This is a five-minute decision…bring all the names to the table and make a decision…(David) Granger is taking forever to make a simple decision,” he said.ConfidenceOnly recently, the management of GuySuCo sent a complaint letter to Minister Holder, about the SPU, which is tasked with the divestment of assets of GuySuCo as part of the downsizing of the sugar sector. The letter listed 13 areas for attention, which included but are not limited to: the need for clear policy positions on the roles and responsibilities of the SPU and GuySuCo; a clear business model and strategy for GuySuCo and the SPU as a partnership; and refocusing of SPU on creating greater value from GuySuCo’s assets which have been vested.In that letter, concerns were also raised about the competency of current SPU executives, which according to GuySuCo, seem to lack the requisite expertise to support the sensitive reconstruction process of GuySuCo. It was also noted in that missive that SPU executives may have ulterior motives which are not in alignment with ensuring the successful transitioning of GuySuCo.Based on this recent public disagreement, Jagdeo has concluded that Government continued to fail to get things right in the sector. “This is a company that employs the most Guyanese in our country…it has the greatest links to our people, our villages, to drainage and irrigation, to foreign exchange earnings…this is a major sector and Government still can’t get things right … it’s like they wake up and make decisions based on what side of the bed they slept on that night,” he said.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary also made reference to a recent letter sent to the President by the Geneva-based International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). In that letter to President David Granger, the IUF expressed concern about the state of affairs in the sugar sector.“The IUF said exactly what we are saying…do the studies, then act…do the feasibility, social impact and diversification studies and then proceed with any decision…now we are going to borrow $30 billion when they could not find $5 billion a year to keep the whole company open, and we’re not even sure if it is a bond or loan. we don’t know what they will spend it on,” he posited.The IUF said also that too many Guyanese men, women, and children have found themselves facing tough and difficult times. For the IUF, hearing first hand from the workers their stories of survival and struggle as they live day in and day out was heart-rending and very moving.last_img read more